Applying behavioural insights to return to work

Report on the trial undertaken by the Behavioural Insights Unit, Allianz and the Department of Education
Employment Behavioural economics Barriers to work Behavioural insights Regulator strategy New South Wales
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It is widely recognised that long-term absence from work is harmful to physical and mental wellbeing. Returning safely and quickly to work has strong benefits for the individual, their family, employer and the broader sustainability of the workers compensation system. In March 2013, the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU), the Department of Education (the Department) and Allianz (the Department’s claims manager) agreed to undertake a joint-project to apply behavioural insights to the return to work process.

Fieldwork, including workshops with staff, was undertaken to better understand the challenges faced by injured employees in returning to work after an injury. This identified that there was a large amount of paperwork and overlap between the responsibilities of different parties involved. Workers were also quite passive in the process, with ‘Injury Management Plans’ which set goals and actions, largely devised by the doctor, insurer and employer, with little active input from the worker.

Drawing on the UK Behavioural Insight Teams’ MINDSPACE and EAST frameworks, a suite of interventions was designed to create a more collaborative relationship between the worker, the Department and Allianz. The interventions focussed on six key areas:

1. simplification;

2. personalisation;

3. priming,

4. timeliness;

5. commitments; and

6. case conferences.

Staff were provided with training and coaching on how to use commitment devices, book case conferences and ways to focus more on building rapport and achieving outcomes.

A trial was undertaken and ran from September 2013 and until July 2014, with the new approach applied to over 1,700 cases during this period. Initial analysis undertaken by PwC found that workers in the treatment group returned to full capacity 27% faster in the first 90 days compared to the control group. More detailed analyses undertaken by Allianz looked at the specific delivery model of the interventions. A survey of workers who had been through the return to work process was undertaken in late July 2014. The results show that workers who experienced the new approach found it to be clearer and easier to understand, more personalised and more empowering.

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