Oct 13, 2021

Making Workers’ Compensation Inclusive and Diverse

8 min read

As the United States’ cultural melting pot continues to grow, the workers’ compensation industry is beginning to witness the change in all areas of business. It’s evident among staff and both types of clients alike: the companies covered and the employees injured.


In fact, minority-owned companies are increasing at a 70% rate, which means the business owners you work with will increasingly reflect the country’s diversity.


With this shift comes an escalating need to welcome and include minority groups who have been pushed to the side for far too long, but industry experts have called the comp sector slow to respond.


Of course, diversity and inclusion is a sensitive topic and can be a difficult conversation to have when addressing concerns in the workplace. But this is only further evidence of the need to have that conversation.


What Are Inclusivity and Diversity


The Global Diversity Practice defines diversity and inclusion as such:


“Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another…it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin.”


“Inclusion is an organisational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated.”


Inclusion and diversity are different, and you need both to create a just workers’ compensation environment. A diverse workforce without inclusivity is prejudiced, and an inclusive workplace doesn’t have anything to be inclusive of without diversity.


It’s an important distinction to make as, all too often, companies hire diverse workforces for show and then fail to value their opinions and include them in conversations.


Benefits of Being Inclusive and Diverse


Creating an inclusive and diverse business is the right thing to do, and it can be as simple as that; however, many benefits come with doing the right thing.


Better Company Performance


Businesses that make diversity and inclusion a part of their everyday practice outperform those that don’t. Research shows that companies in the top-quartile for gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability. Meanwhile, companies in the top-quartile for ethnic and culturally diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to have above-average profitability.


You can attribute better performance among these companies to the fact that diversity provides varied perspectives and valuable insight, allowing for better decision-making.


Improved Employee Morale


Inclusion practices also improve employee satisfaction and morale, which boosts individual performance. And they create a sense of community among all your employees – not just minorities.


People who feel welcomed by their workplace and enjoy workplace connections are more motivated and productive.


Increased Safety


Workers’ compensation providers continue to expand their services outside of claims management to include services like safety training and hazard evaluations. These services help businesses keep their employees safe, prevent accidents and reduce the risk of claims in the first place.


But an often overlooked part of improving workplace safety is encouraging inclusion practices for LEP workers. LEP stands for limited English proficiency and describes individuals who don’t speak English very well.


Injuries and accidents are much more likely to occur when LEP workers don’t understand safety needs, precautions or instructions. Inclusion practices help ensure that employers communicate instructions to LEP workers in a way they can understand, keeping them safe.


Inclusion also promotes happy, healthy minds, which means fewer distractions that could result in injury.


Better Client Relationships


People feel closer to those like themselves. After all, there’s a sense of trust and connection that comes from shared experiences and traits.


It’s in this way that diversity and inclusion can enhance your client relationships. Whether you have employees of the same ethnicity as a client or hire a translator who can speak their language, you promote a sense of trust. And forming deeper client connections is a great way to grow loyalty, reduce churn and increase profit.


For LEP clients, hiring a translator also prevents miscommunication and enables you to provide higher quality services that also contribute to client loyalty.


Reduced Company Risk


Preventing miscommunication does more than improve your client relationships. It’s also a critical step in preventing dangerous, and potentially deadly, mistakes.


Adapting inclusive practices for communicating with multilingual or LEP clients can keep you from offending those of another culture. More importantly, it ensures that you understand your LEP clients’ needs, so they are safe from malpractice and get the treatment they deserve.


By making inclusion a priority, you mitigate the risk of client’s suing as a result of these mistakes.


Threats to Inclusivity In Workers’ Compensation


The world faces many obstacles towards inclusive ways of thinking and functioning, and the same goes for most industries. Still, some threats are particularly pertinent to workers’ compensation.


Non-Diverse Workforces


Workers’ comp is meant to help meet the needs of others, but this is a challenging task to take on when one doesn’t understand those needs to begin with. Non-diverse workforces become problematic when they contribute to a lack of perspective, insight and relatability about diverse clients’ needs.


Working in a non-diverse environment also promotes social stigma due to a lack of experience with diverse people.


Client Mistrust


It’s not uncommon for minorities to have some level of distrust for the government after a long history of inequality. This impacts workers’ comp businesses when clients view their services and employees in conjunction with the government. Overcoming this mistrust is an essential step towards creating comfortable, happy clients.


Imbalance Among Those Injured


Immigrant workers are 15% more likely to be fatally injured on the job.


This is a result of circumstances derived from inequality: immigrants and LEP workers are more likely to work in demanding and dangerous jobs. They’re also more likely to get injured on the job due to a lack of proper safety communication.


And since immigrant and LEP workers get injured more often, they’re the same individuals in need of workers’ comp, exacerbating the need for diversity awareness in the industry.


Health Disparities


In addition to safety discrepancies, minorities also suffer from health disparities. Latinos and African Americans, for example, experience 30% to 40% poorer health outcomes than White Americans as a result of unequal treatment and a harder time getting that treatment.


These differences in health conditions are significant to note in workers’ comp as they can impact the individual’s healing process. Staff should know and address these disparities to ensure proper treatment and safe return to work.


Language Barriers


Language barriers get in the way of equal treatment and are partially to blame for the disparities in health and safety. Missing a shared language can also make clients feel isolated, leading to even longer healing times and inadequate communication. Overcoming this barrier is a key part of overcoming many accessibility issues in workers’ comp.


How to Be Inclusive and Embrace Diversity


Some businesses have made great strides towards creating more inclusive work environments, but there’s still a lot left to do. If you’re interested in bringing diversity and inclusion into your workplace and reaping the benefits, there are steps you can take to get started.



Learn to Recognize Biases and Microaggressions


Start by determining where you and your company are on this scale regarding diversity and inclusion:


  1. Unaware
  2. Aware
  3. Intellectual Understanding
  4. Emotional Understanding
  5. Personal Experience


Then, start learning about your own biases and microaggressions so you can stop them at the source. A microaggression is “a statement, action or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination.”


Even subtle and unintentional discriminations are offensive and leave an impact, which is why bringing attention to them is the first step.


Train Employees on Inclusion


Learning to recognize bias within yourself is a huge step, but it’s not enough to cause a resounding change throughout a company. All employees should be trained in inclusion and encouraged to recognize their microaggressions.


This goes for senior and executive employees as much as anyone else. Top company members should lead by example to result in profound change.


It’s worth noting that bringing shame to a person’s behavior is rarely effective. The best approach is to work towards educating staff on new ways of thinking and acting.


Hire a Diverse Workforce


Hire a competent and diverse workforce so that you can bring greater perspective and insight to your company while encouraging trust and comfort among diverse clients. Doing so will also open your company up to more talent.


When hiring a diverse workforce, be sure to hire for high-level positions as well as entry-level ones. To benefit from diversity, it should be present among executive teams and your board of directors.


Provide Equal Opportunities


Once you hire diverse employees, it’s critical to ensure equal opportunity for all. Employees should have an equal chance at obtaining promotions and job maneuverability. Make sure bias, whether conscious or not, doesn’t impact these decisions.


Ensuring fair opportunities will also help you hold onto your best talent and save you the hefty costs of employee churn.


Create an I&D Program


An I&D program is a program that – you guessed it – supports inclusion and diversity. Many of the above tips, including hiring a diverse workforce, providing equal opportunity and training your employees in inclusion, can be part of an I&D program.


What sets an I&D program apart is that it helps develop cultural competency by bringing understanding and acceptance into every facet of company culture and functioning, from recruiting to retirement. Companies with an I&D program often have a Director of Diversity and Inclusion or a Chief Equality Officer to oversee it.


An I&D program goes the extra mile by ensuring sustained progress, as opposed to one round of employee training that is quickly forgotten.


Provide for Clients With Disabilities


Providing accessible services for people with disabilities is also a matter of inclusivity. This is particularly relevant to workers’ compensation since clients may have a disability, whether temporary or permanent, due to a work injury.


As a result, workers’ comp businesses have begun adapting services to ensure equal treatment for people with disabilities. The most predominant example is offering transportation services for patients who cannot drive or have difficulty getting to their medical appointments.


Provide for LEP Clients


We’ve discussed the many ways in which language barriers negatively impact LEP clients and patients. For those whose first language isn’t English, you can hire document translators and professional interpreters to prevent misunderstandings that get in the way of proper treatment.


You can also reduce workplace injuries by suggesting inclusive practices to the businesses you provide safety training for. They may be unaware of the need to make extra communication efforts for LEP employees.


Educate Employees on Health Differences


Different ethnicities are prone to different health conditions that workers’ comp employees should be aware of.


For instance, studies show that the risk of diabetes is 77% higher for African Americans and 66% higher for Hispanic Americans than White Americans. Having diabetes can affect treatment plans and healing processes, so it should be considered throughout claims management and when creating return-to-work programs.


Don’t Succumb to a One-Size-Fits-All Approach


Making a business more inclusive and diverse is a worthwhile investment and a meaningful cause, especially in the workers’ compensation industry. But don’t let yourself fall into a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing diversity.


It’s easy to think that treating everyone the same way is the same as treating everyone equally. When it comes down to it, “same” and “equal” aren’t always synonyms. Sometimes, you need to take different measures to meet individual needs and overcome obstacles in the way of equality.


Becoming inclusive doesn’t mean treating individuals as if they are the same; it means understanding, accepting and even celebrating one’s differences.


If you’re interested in embracing diversity and making your practice inclusive of all clients and staff, reach out to the experts at iLingo2. We’ll help your company overcome the language barriers that get in the way of true inclusivity.