Fifty-Three Percent of Employees Are Scared to Bring Up Their Health Condition With Their Direct Supervisor

New survey from The Standard finds that HR managers provide a better overall disability management experience

PORTLAND, OREGONOct. 10, 2017 — Employees who only work with a direct supervisor to address their health conditions are more worried about being treated differently and losing their jobs than employees who work with an HR manager, according to a new survey from Standard Insurance Company (The Standard).* The Standard's findings highlight how an employer's approach to disability management can help prevent employees from being labeled by their condition and increase overall productivity.

The Standard's survey found that employees with health conditions are nervous about bringing attention to their illnesses or injuries in the workplace for fear of being treated differently. Fifty-three percent of employees surveyed were scared to bring up their health condition with their direct supervisor, while 49 percent felt they were treated differently by their supervisor because of their health condition.

For employees who worked directly with their HR manager, those numbers were significantly lower. Twenty-nine percent of employees said they were scared to bring up their condition with their HR manager while 32 percent said they felt they were treated differently by their HR manager because of their condition.

“Employers set the tone for the employee experience — especially when it comes to disability management,” said Tom Foran, vice president of underwriting and product development at The Standard. “The Standard found that 93 percent of employees who received accommodations for their health conditions said they could perform their jobs more effectively after receiving assistance from their employer. Creating a collaborative approach to disability management within an organization can help save time and money, as accommodations can help boost an employee’s overall health and productivity.”

In addition, The Standard found that employees who worked with their HR manager received more consistent communications, workplace accommodations and connections to other support programs that helped them return to work sooner. Employees who worked with their HR manager had a lower disability leave duration (59 days) than those who worked with their direct supervisor (77 days). Often, this is because HR managers are aware of additional resources that can help support employees in their return to work, including support from their disability carrier, or wellness, disease management or employee assistance program.

Other key insights from The Standard’s survey include:

  • Employees feel more positive about their employer overall when they're helped by an HR manager:
    • 73 percent said their HR manager knew how to support them
    • 73 percent felt more productive after receiving accommodations
    • 67 percent felt more valued by their employer because they were provided with accommodations
  • Workplace accommodations can have a big impact on employees, the most helpful of which can be fairly straightforward in nature:
    • 61 percent were given flexibility to attend doctor's appointments
    • 58 percent were allowed to work a modified schedule
    • 40 percent received workspace modifications

“The support an employee receives in the workplace can be the fuel needed to help them stay at work and avoid a disability leave, or get back to work quickly after taking time away from work,” said Foran. “Employers can work with their disability carrier to create a workplace culture that fosters inclusion and provides support for employees before, during and after a health event. This sense of teamwork among HR managers and direct supervisors can help employees do their jobs more effectively.“

*About the survey
The Standard's survey was completed by 611 U.S. employees in April 2017. Respondents were employed in various industries at companies with more than 10 employees.

About The Standard

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of 1100 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon, in all states except New York. Product features and availability vary by state and company and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York.


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Bob Speltz, Senior Director, Public Affairs

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Cassandra Bergemann, Bader Rutter & Associates