Work Contribution Part 1

Blog - Work Contribution Part 1

Dr Mary Wyatt | Published: May 19, 2015

The impact of work on a particular health problem can be a contentious issue, and the assessments are often not done well (IMHO).

Disputed claims cause can cause significant grief. They are more likely to be expensive, and return to work rates are worse.  This is a big issue and needs to be addressed, but is not currently being tackled at a policy level.  

Employees feel aggrieved if they believe work has contributed to their condition and their claim is denied. After they have an accepted claim for a few years, receiving advice their claim is being terminated on the basis that work ‘No Longer Contributes’ to their health issue can be even more perplexing.  

A long term back problem can cost the workers compensation system $500k, without blinking. If the condition is not truly a work caused (or contributed) condition, the employer will pay a component of that amount inappropriately. Their proportion of the $500k will vary, but some will pay the entire amount.  

Carrying the costs when they consider work has had little or nothing to do with the employee’s condition can be vexing, and that frustration often impacts the employee-employer relationship. It also leads to employers trying to avoid employing people with underlying health problems. In this environment, it’s no wonder that most people won’t disclose, for example, their long term backache. 

Across all conditions, if the condition is compensable then the health outcomes are worse for the employee. The outcomes are also worse for the employer and the community. 

$500k isn’t a large amount in workers compensation systems, where we often talk in billions for overall collection of payments and liabilities. When you multiply that $500k by numerous claims however, the figure starts to add up.

Trust is vital in workers compensation systems. When components of the system aren’t trusted it everyone is impacted. The greatest impact is on the worker. Inadequate and poorly trusted work contribution assessment systems also negatively impact the community’s views of compensation.  

We should try to deal with this issue to the best of our ability. Health practitioners and policy makers should try to get it right. But we are not in the zone of looking at this issue at a policy big picture level.  

There are many factors which contribute to the complexity of assessing work contribution. Over the next series of blog posts I will try to address some of them.