- The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) released a new study evaluating the adequacy of workers' compensation benefits and projecting the replacement of lost earnings five and 10 years after an injury. The study showed that 10 years after an injury, the average worker received 88% of the earnings and income benefits that an uninjured worker would have received. The analysis focused on a Michigan-based program.
- According to the study, the total income for employees out on temporary disability for up to 12 months was projected to be 91% to 95% of non-injured employees' earnings. The total income of permanently or partially disabled workers, or those receiving lump-sum payments, was 69% of income for non-injured workers.
- WCRI also found that after returning to work 44% of workers out on temporary disability for more than one month stayed continuously employed, but another 31% only worked sporadically and 21% had no meaningful return to work or only short-term, erratic employment.
With many employers looking to their states to streamline workers' comp programs, comprehensive studies like WRCI's can offer useful data in determining whether their own programs are adequate. Workers' compensation is part of a large risk management strategy for employers and keeping tabs on trends is important. More broadly, it is important to note how impactful injuries can be long-term for employees.
For employers thinking about the overall well-being of their workforce, there could be some food for thought in the statistics showing that significant numbers of workers who are out on temporary disability only return to sporadic employment after that. Whether there are things that could be done within the workplace to retain such workers may depend on the industry and company, but given the investment employers put into training workers, losing large numbers of those that are out because of injury could be potentially impactful. Given that some workers never return to full earning potential, an argument could be made the investment in safety procedures and policies upfront is the best way to address workers comp issues.
Further complicating workers' comp considerations is the changing nature of the workforce. A growing gig economy is forcing lawmakers and some businesses to consider offering on-demand workers benefits such as workers' comp. Extending this coverage to more workers challenges employers to look for more ways to hold workers' comp costs down, while also creating benefits programs and protections for workers that ensure safe workplaces and healthy employees.