The majority of people are blissfully unaware of the risks associated with becoming either permanently or temporarily disabled. That also implies the importance of having disability insurance and the resources to cover their expenses for months or even years if they cannot work due to an illness or injury.
It’s not uncommon for employees to consider the benefits a potential employer can offer because it’s one of the most important factors influencing their final employment decision. As a result, businesses looking to improve their employer brand and win talent tend to provide a benefits package that can attract and retain employees.
A recent article in Benefits Canada identified that 30% of all disability claims now relate to mental illness. If you are an employer in a small business and do not have the resources internally to manage some of these problematic situations, you may need to seek outside help.
This article will explore the intricacies of using long-term disability insurance if an employee experiences mental health issues.
What Is Long-term Disability Insurance?
Long-term disability insurance is a type of insurance policy that safeguards employees from monetary losses if they cannot return to an old or take a new job for a lengthy period due to a sickness or injury. Simply put, it is designed to provide a financial safety net to individuals and families.
It’s also worth mentioning that long-term disability insurance doesn’t cover accidents or injuries sustained at work, and workers’ compensation insurance typically covers such occurrences. However, a growing issue is attributing injuries and illnesses to work, especially when it includes repetitive motion or mental stress.
Are There Any Limitations for Mental Conditions?
Most disability policies do not pay out monthly benefits for psychological issues that last more than a year. But they frequently include a “mental and nervous” clause that restricts the time policyholders qualify for benefits for mental issues or disability. While policies vary significantly, such clauses only have a one- or two-year limit.
With this in mind, insurance companies frequently attempt to frame mental-related disabilities as illnesses when the actual cause of the condition is unknown.
One of the reasons why insurers may try to prove that a patient has a mental health disability rather than a physical one is to reduce the amount of money they have to pay out in benefits. For instance, if a patient is diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, this condition typically has both cognitive and physical causes, which can greatly complicate their ability to access their benefits.
How to for Employees: Addressing the Issue
Mental health problems are typically much more elusive to detect than physical ones. With X-ray evidence, for example, it’s simple to prove to insurers the existence of a broken leg. Such clinical conditions as depression or schizophrenia, however, lack easy-to-use proof methods like these.
But, despite this, employees can take specific steps to demonstrate that they have a mental illness. First, they should always keep track of any medical records pertaining to their diagnoses and treatments.
Suppose you’re filing for disability due to mental illness. In that case, you’ll need the support of your attending physician, therapist, or psychiatrist to prove that you can’t perform the essential functions of your job. Besides, it would help if you kept all your medical records, regardless of how many different doctors or clinics you’ve visited.
How to for Employers: Addressing the Issue
Of course, the first step is to address employee performance problems early on. It’s a known fact that there is a considerable level of hesitancy for an employee to admit to having mental health problems, so they do not seek treatment, escalating the situation at work and home.
If you, as the employer, sense that there are some mental health issues, the only way to address this is through a documented performance review where you relate any matters to how well the employee is carrying out their job responsibilities.
Suppose you do not help the employee address these performance issues in a measured, documented way. In that case, you will have a significant challenge managing the escalation of the problems that will likely happen with the employee and the rest of the team. If issues have escalated and it appears that time away from work for treatment is needed, you may need to hire outside help, such as a disability case manager, to work with you and your employee’s physician.
The first task is defining a cognitive job description, which means drilling down the essential knowledge and skills employees need to do their current job. In addition, referrals can be made to community-based mental health programs to assist in the employee’s recovery and a plan for return to work.
Also, note that the longer employees are away from the workplace, the less likely they are to return. If there is no return-to-work plan, you as an employer will have some long-term challenges getting your employee back on their feet and working.
Since more and more employers recognize the duty to accommodate mental illness, you must ensure that your managers can identify the signs of mental illness.
Also, it is essential to continuously develop a workplace culture that does not have a stigma to mental illness and that there is some peer support. Mental health illness needs a collaborative team approach in helping an employee address mental health issues, enabling them to return to as a functioning, productive employee versus a disabled employee who goes on long-term disability.
Marian Sahakyan is a content writer and a journalism graduate from California State University, Long Beach with a background in marketing as well as UI and UX design. Marian’s previous writing and reporting has been featured in several community newspapers throughout Southern California.