It’s a scenario you’re likely to ­encounter. One of your small-business clients has an employee who is about to take a disability leave for an illness or injury. Or, perhaps, a client has an employee with a chronic condition that could escalate into a disability leave if preventive measures aren’t taken. The employer has disability insurance to help employees in either of these instances, but isn’t quite sure of where to start to help this employee since this type of situation doesn’t arise often. So they call you for counsel.

You always recommend that your clients reach out if they need assistance. But time spent helping HR managers with the intricacies of group disability policies can keep you away from other important business-building things — namely, meeting new clients and making new sales, which is especially important during enrollment season. In this situation, you might be able to get help from a place you may not expect: your disability carrier.

Service offerings to Help Clients in Need

Many disability carriers are doing more than just offering insurance products these days. Some are providing services with their group disability offerings that can help ensure that your clients are getting the most value from their benefits. This includes providing counsel through the disability process and helping ensure your clients’ workforces are healthy and productive.

Rather than have your clients rely on you to guide them through disability leave questions and nuances or help them best utilize health and wellness programs, consider the ways you can work with a carrier that offers resources in these areas. Some disability insurers offer consultants with specializations, such as helping your small business clients answer important questions and assisting with accommodations.

The key for success is educating your small-business clients about how to work with their disability carrier to help with employees’ disabling conditions. It’s also important to let them know about other resources carriers offer or other programs they can assist with. Not only will making this connection take work off your plate the next time a client has a claim issue but also position you as an above-and-beyond service provider.

Educate Clients on How Carriers Can Help

Disabling conditions and disability leaves might be foreign concepts to small-business clients since their staffs might not incur major illnesses or injuries at the same rate that larger organizations might. When setting up a group policy through a carrier that offers a disability consultant, a key step is to help educate clients on the types of scenarios in which a disability carrier can help. This includes return-to-work, stay-at-work, ergonomic, and mental health accommodations.

Carriers that have disability consultants (often include vocational, nurse or mental health case managers) can step in to help employees out on a disability leave. Disability consultants will work with human resources, the employee, and even the employee’s medical team to find a solution — be it an ergonomic accommodation, temporary job schedule or return-to-work plan.

Medical or disability leaves aren’t the only instances in which a carrier can help, though. Encourage your small-business clients to reach out to a carrier’s disability consultants to help them accommodate employees who have conditions that might not be disabling or impairing yet. Back pain, musculoskeletal issues, carpal tunnel and even depression can spiral into a larger issue if left untreated.

Small businesses often can’t afford to be missing key employees, as even one employee out on a disability leave can decrease profitability. Being proactive can help curb the chance that conditions could become something larger and keep employees at work and productive.

Maximize the full benefits offering

In today’s wellness-minded world, small-businesses understand that they should provide additional resources to employees, such as employee assistance, wellness, and/or disease management programs in addition to their health and disability insurance benefits.

These programs exist to help mitigate the impact employee health has on an organization, and can connect employees with the resources and assistance they might need. But many may not know how and when to properly tap, or even promote, these programs.

Encourage your small-business clients to connect with their carrier’s disability consultants to help ensure they’re getting the most out of their benefits programs. Disability consultants can investigate available offerings and counsel employers on how to best maximize these resources. In some instances consultants will even help make the connection with health insurance plans and benefits offered through other carriers.

Help and an Objective View

In addition to being point people for your clients, disability consultants can work directly with employees. They can help ask the tough, health-related questions an HR manager might not feel comfortable with and suggest the best resources to help with the issue at hand.

If an issue does require a claim, disability consultants can even help employees navigate the claims process. They also can work directly with an employee’s medical team and help implement any restrictions or concerns into a return-to-work plan or implement reasonable accommodations.

Allowing direct access between carrier resources and clients won’t just save you time, it can also help reduce instances of disability in the workplace and increase productivity and profitability. This is especially important for small businesses that can’t afford to lose an employee to a disability leave.

By addressing these issues early, you can help your clients diminish the need for an employee to file a disability claim and increase your value as a resource for years to come.


Brian Kost is the program director for Standard Insurance Company’s Workplace Possibilities program. He’s been with The Standard since 2007 and was instrumental in creating the program that exists today. With more than 30 years of experience, Brian is a results-driven manager with a track record of innovative program design in reducing absence, improving return-to-work outcomes and helping employees become more productive. He holds a master’s degree in career and guidance counseling. He also is a certified rehabilitation counselor and ergonomist.