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Top ten tips to keep you on track when managing a stress claim.

Anna Kelsey-Sugg

To help an employee return to work after a stress claim, our ten tips start with proactivity and care. Read on!

The successful management of a stress claim will see an employee rehabilitating and returning to their job as quickly as possible. Here are ten tips to keep you on the right track:

1) Listen until you get it.  Not understanding the employee’s situation is one of the most common causes of a long term claim. Most people lodging a stress claim have tried to deal with the situation for months. They are often distressed and emotional when finally lodging a claim. They need to know they will be heard.   Listen until you can put yourself in their shoes. 

2) Be swift. Pro-activity and swift action on the part of the employer, case manager or return to work coordinator increases the chances of the individual returning to the workplace. The quicker the action towards appropriate return-to-work, the better the outcomes.  The first 48 hours is vital. 

3) Show care. Outcomes will be better still if an employee feels that their work is valued, if management is committed to their return to work and not acrimonious, and if colleagues provide support upon their return. Avoid being 'right', it is a major obstacle to listening, caring, and forming a partnership with the employee. 

4) Stay in touch. Management can let the worker know they are valued and that they have the support of the workplace by keeping touch while the person is off work. Absence from work can create more stress or anxiety, and communication with the workplace during rehabilitation is a good way to minimise this.

5) Adopt strong policies. The employer is responsible for having a strong policy in place to facilitate the swift and effective management of a claim; they are also responsible for making staff aware of it.

6) Investigate. Managers or supervisors should investigate and remedy circumstances which caused injury or illness to prevent reoccurrence.

7) Coordinate. The case manager, claims manager/s and the rehabilitation provider may all need to be involved in discussion, along with the employee and the manager or supervisor. Coordination will facilitate these discussions.

8) Involve the employee. It's important that the employee be involved, as well as the employer and a medical practitioner, in the drafting of their return to work plan. Collaboration will ensure the plan is accurate and comprehensive.

9) Form strategies.  The return to work plan should include strategies to move forward, to resolve issues that may inhibit recovery, and to support the worker once they are back at work.

10) Be flexible. This could mean being prepared to make changes to the employee’s tasks, or to the way work is managed or scheduled. Lack of flexibility will all act as a disincentive for the employee to return.

Published 15 March, 2009