Superannuation funds have the power to help millions of Australians experience the benefits of ‘good work’, a gathering of group insurance professionals has heard.

Good work happens when workplaces embrace policies and practices to enhance employees’ health and wellbeing while rewarding them with an appropriate degree of control, autonomy and flexibility help employers as well.

Fit For Work medical director and chief executive David Beaumont says the group insurance industry can influence the health of all Australians by educating employers about the benefits of providing good work, adding that employers would benefit as well.

Employees in good work are healthier, take shorter sick leave, have fewer accidents, are able to return to work quicker after injury, and give greater discretionary effort, Beaumont told delegates at the 2017 Conexus Financial Group Insurance Summit in Sydney on August 29.

He warned that a significant portion of the claims the industry handles represent “system failures” where prevention methods were not used.

Jardine Lloyd Thompson benefit solutions divisional manager Chris Sinclair echoed Beaumont’s message and added that the key to success for early-intervention initiatives was having engaged and committed employers.

Sinclair said JLT’s work has helped provide employers with the right support and tools for early interventions. However, he conceded that the insurance industry was still at its “infancy stage” in this field, in comparison with workers’ compensation insurance, an area where employers are better equipped for dealing with work-related injuries.

Recovre national customer engagement manager Jacqui Milson said she had seen a positive shift in employers’ willingness to engage and invest in early intervention over the last three to five years, but emphasised that the overall injury-management approach needs to be within “a framework that [provides] support all the way from absence management through to deployment and career transition”.

Focus on rehab

UniSuper return-to-work specialist Natalie Agnoletto said that, in the past, the fund had offered no rehabilitation expense benefit, leaving members and employers on their own “when it came to return-to-work planning”.

But by shifting focus from “process to service”, it became the first superannuation fund to integrate internal occupational rehabilitation into the claims team, Agnoletto said.

“I am realistic about the impact that occupational rehabilitation has on claims durations,” she said. “There is no guarantee, and it’s not necessarily useful on all claims, but if there is support in place for our members, successful outcomes will be achieved.”

The NSW Police Force is an example of an employer that has brought together a number of insurance and superannuation funds to create “a holistic process of getting [an employee] back to work”, said the organisation’s general manager, employee compensation and claims, Marcus Stephenson.

Stephenson said by incorporating its income protection and workers compensation schemes, the Police Force was able to maximise an employee’s chance of returning to work and identifying possible future employment pathways.

He said the work undertaken so far was important in order to dispel “some of the myths around insurance companies being there to deny your claims”.

The 2017 Conexus Financial Group Insurance Summit was produced with thanks to support from platinum sponsors AIA Australia and TAL Australia.