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Reframing disability: A world-changing opportunity

At the 2022 ASFA Conference yesterday, senior representatives of TAL and Rest emphasised the importance of supporting people with disability with a holistic claims experience.

Explaining the common challenges customers experience, TAL chief claims officer Jenny Oliver said: "Customers present with the same clinical medical situation but because of their financial circumstances, support network and geographic location, what they're doing and how they want to adapt to their life with a disability is very, very different."

"That's why it's really important to reflect on all the claims consultants in that journey, beyond just medical information and really get to be afforded the opportunity to build a really great relationship with their customer."

Such a positive relationship will help those still dealing with the health and physical challenges associated with their condition prepare themselves to re-enter the workforce.

Though just as important as the individual motivation and belief to return to work, Oliver asserted that massive opportunity existed in employers' role in the re-integration process.

Speaking from his own experiences, doctor, lawyer, scientist and disability advocate Dinesh Palipana said: "We intellectualise the barriers and challenges of physical issues that turn out to be nothing."

So Palipana implored employers to just try.

"I think there needs to be a willingness to say, 'while we may fail, we're going to give this a try in a safe manner'," Palipana said.

Moreover, Palipana pointed out that people with disability had less absenteeism and developed more diverse workplaces which studies have found to be more prosperous and productive.

Using himself as an example, Palipana said that despite a loss of function in his hands and legs his unique skill set allowed him to see 24% more patients than his colleagues.

Palipana remarked that the insurance industry had a great opportunity to be third-party advocates for disability by tapping into resources that forward solutions for employees.

Oliver reverberated Palipana's call to action and highlighted the huge role insurers and employers can have in producing positive member outcomes.

She said: "Employers represent a huge opportunity for us in supporting customers returning and leveraging the abilities they do have."

Nonetheless, many businesses don't understand the benefits diversity can bring to a team or don't feel capable of managing such a transition.

Irrespective of these stigmas, Oliver claimed: "We've had amazing results when we can sit down with the employer, the customer, doctors and team to help understand what abilities people have and what modifications are available."

"The employer has a huge impact on outcomes, and I think we need to reflect on what role we can play with employers to help them support people return to work.

"I think we've got an opportunity to really educate and empower employers and thank them for the confidence they have as they go on this journey," she concluded.

Further highlighting the need for greater employer inclusivity, Palipana advanced the idea that helping one person may not change the world, but you'll change the world for them.

Read more: TALASFA ConferenceDinesh PalipanaJenny Oliver