Amy Klatt, Skyward Specialty Insurance; Amy O'Brien, Gallagher Bassett
The so-called Great Resignation, which many see as a phase of the pandemic, has resulted in a change in mindset in the way employers view workers’ compensation claims, especially those related to COVID-19.
That was one of the main discussion points on a panel discussion called ‘Claims Management Coming from a Pandemic Transition Period’, which took place at the Captive Insurance Companies Association’s (CICA) annual conference, taking place in Tucson this week (March 6-8).
The Great Resignation is a phenomenon that describes record numbers of people leaving their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Almost 70 million Americans quit their jobs last year, in search of either better pay, better benefits or a better work-life balance. This phenomenon has forced employers to reassess their own offering and approach to attracting staff.
The session discussed the implications of a new source of claims (COVID-19) for the industry’s approach to claims and outcomes. Panellists discussed how other types of claims, such as property/casualty, are handled; COVID claims as related to compensability; and other topics including the increased use of innovative tools such as telemedicine and telephonic case management.
The panel comprised: Amy Klatt, Managing Director Claims, Skyward Specialty Insurance; Amy O’Brien, Vice President – Captive Sales, Gallagher Bassett; and Katie Wildman, Risk Advisor – Alternative Risk Transfer, BevCap Management.
O’Brien said that the Great Resignation has had implications for the way companies view workers’ compensation claims. While there was a conservative approach to COVID-related claims at the start of the pandemic, increasingly, firms are keen to get people back to work sooner and find solutions instead of taking a harder line.
“The employee is more valuable now – so they are being treated right. The employer is saying: ‘what can I do to keep this person?’ That means more employers are volunteering solutions and payments and we are seeing fewer claims.”
Klatt agreed, stating that she too has seen an uptick in employers wanting employees back quickly and to find solutions. This has been helped by shorter quarantine periods relating to COVID and a growing acceptance of work-from-home solutions.
But this new dynamic can also present risks. One is that employees might be returning to work too soon. And firms need to ensure they have robust safety procedures and robust return to work programmes and policies and procedures in place, Wildman said.
“And companies also need to ensure they keep training and retraining procedures in place,” she said. “Otherwise, you can be looking at litigation risk.”
O’Brien also highlighted moral issues around such claims. In some instances, she noted, an employer may want to pay a claim on moral grounds. She described a scenario where a worker is physically injured but contracts COVID in hospital. “The employer will feel they have a moral obligation,” she said.
But Klatt and Wildman concurred that carriers could not take that moral obligation into account in their judgement on paying that claim, for fear of setting a precedent either for that carrier or the wider industry. They would have to judge a claim on its legal merit, they said.