A few years ago, the 100th anniversary of widespread adoption of workers’ compensation laws in the United States was celebrated. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) invited reflections on workers’ compensation. I decided to weigh in and posted a few thoughts about what comp might look like in a better world. Here’s what I wrote.
Looking back on it a few years later, I still like my idea. Adversarial systems are not designed to get the best result overall. They are designed to pick winners and losers. Right now, that creates enormous risk for the injured worker of losing everything if a light duty return to work attempt does not go well. Most systems have no good “safe harbor” provision to allow injured workers to try out a job without risk of losing benefits.
I don’t know what I would design if I were asked to create the perfect workers’ compensation system. I just know I would include some kind of safe harbor to let people try working without risk of losing their benefits.