Study: Disability Management Drastically Lowers Absences

Three simple techniques can help a company reduce the absence rate of workers on disability by 74%. The fifth annual Washington Business Group on Health (WBGH)/Watson Wyatt World survey on disability management -- released last week -- found that companies that use disability case management, involve line supervisors, and designate an internal absence manager have 1.4% of their workforce missing on a given day due to disabilities. This compares with 5.3% at companies without those techniques. "Given the tight labor market, employers need to ensure that their existing workforce is at its full potential," says Veronica Hellwig, a senior health and productivity analyst with Watson Wyatt and coauthor of the study. "This means not only ensuring that employees are able and willing to work, but being proactive about managing absences." The survey was based on responses from 106 employers with more than 1,000 employees. Surprisingly, two-thirds of the companies surveyed confessed to not knowing what their absence rate from disabilities is. However, a report on the study points out that enterprise-wide applications can be used to track absences. "In many cases, it's simply a matter of knowing where to look and how to get the most from their existing systems," says Mary Jane England, president of WBGH. Copies of the report, Staying At Work: Improving Workforce Productivity Through Integrated Disability Management, are available for purchase at

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