The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

When You Care Enough to Send a Card

Front of the care card for worker's compensation leave

Front of the care card for workers’ compensation leave

Who doesn’t love getting a card in the mail? The hand-addressed envelope, the real stamp in the corner, the excitement of what might be inside — a treasure in the midst of a stack of bills, junk mail and advertisements. If you’re like me, before you even open it, your day is made a little brighter by the thought that someone cared enough to send well wishes.

It was this sentiment that led the Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Services Team at University of California, Irvine to create its Care Cards program. The concept is a simple one: any UC Irvine employee who takes a medical leave of absence or is injured on the job receives a card in the mail signed by each member of the team with a customized message and information about who to contact if they have questions or concerns about their leave or claim. There are cards for new mothers, those injured on the job, those suffering from a non-work-related injury or illness … even a card designed to facilitate the interactive process for return to work. The cards are designed by staff and students, so the only cost is printing and mailing — from $.70 to $1.05 per card. To engage the entire HR office, the first card was initially developed via a contest, with a prize going to the individual whose design was chosen.

“These cards are a creative, simple, inexpensive way to let our employees know they are valued and cared for while also keeping them engaged and connected to work while they’re out on leave,” says Susan Pihl, UC Irvine’s director of benefits, workers’ compensation and disability management services. “They really are an integral part of our overall workers’ comp and disability management strategy.”

Message on the inside of the care card

Message on the inside of the workers’ comp care card

And that strategy certainly seems to be successful — UC Irvine’s workers’ compensation program is recognized as being the best in the UC system. Some stats:

  • UC Irvine’s 2014-15 workers’ comp rate is $.40 per $100 of payroll vs. the system average of $.83.
  • UC Irvine saw a 45 percent reduction in workers’ comp claims from 2003-2013.
  • The institution saw a 70 percent reduction in workers’ comp lost days from work from 2003-2013, and had 71 percent fewer lost days from work in 2013 than the UC system average.
  • UC Irvine’s workers’ comp litigation rate has decreased by 54 percent over the last 10 years.
  • Only one ADA claim was filed at UC Irvine from 2007-2012 — the lowest number in the UC system.
  • 99 percent of new mothers return to work after pregnancy/maternity leaves.

“Obviously the care cards aren’t the sole reason for our success rate in workers’ comp and disability management, but they most definitely play a part,” says Pihl. “They start the dialogue around leave on a positive note, they help clear up confusion, they let employees know we’re here and ready to help, and they provide next steps and clear direction on ‘where to go from here.’”

For its Care Cards program, UC Irvine’s Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Services Team received a CUPA-HR 2015
HR Innovation Award. The team will be presented with the award at this year’s Annual Conference and Expo, September 27-29 in Orlando, Florida.