Turn on any media outlet and chances are you will see Hurricane Matthew’s devastation. The emotions elicited from seeing pictures of entire neighborhoods under water range from shock to sadness.

There seems to be quite a bit of information on how to assist victims on a personal level by sending donations or how to contact FEMA and file a claim, but I haven’t seen any one discussing ways employers can assist employees who have been impacted by the hurricane. Nor does there seem to be any information on other traumatic events that can impact an organization, such as being witness to a shooting, horrific car accident or domestic violence.

The first resource, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), is a fairly common benefit offered by most employers. In general, this benefit is voluntary, offers free and short term counseling, referrals, and follow-up to employees in a number of areas including: counseling, workplace performance, financial referrals, drug or alcohol counseling, and trauma therapy. This is usually one of the first referrals an employer can make when their employee is struggling in the workplace.

My recommendation to employers is to ensure the EAP provider has both male and female therapists available for on-sight counseling (if needed) and those identified therapists should be available for follow up visits with impacted employees.

As mentioned in the previous post Creating a Pause Button, trauma impacts people differently, and the methods of recovery differ, as well.

The timeline for recovery varies. Some employees will be able to return to work fairly quickly, while others may need additional time off to process the event and work on the emotional impact the event had on them.

Should the need for processing and recovery occur, the employee may be eligible for short term disability coverage. These plans have a waiting period, and are available in certain medical circumstances when an employee needs extended time off. If the employee is approved for short term disability, he/she may also qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or disability protection – more on this in a later blog.
Finally, after some disasters, affected states may set up a “Victim’s Assistance Fund” or “Disaster Unemployment Benefits”, which are put in place to financially assist victims of the event or. These funds are not automatically generated. They are set up by states on a case by case event basis. Once the fund(s) is established, claimants can file for reimbursement of various expenses after exhausting all other company available benefits.

Eligible reimbursement may include:
• lost wages
• medical bills
• counseling costs
• some property damage costs

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When interacting with traumatized employees, an open line of communication is key in supporting your employee and assisting with a smoother, faster return to work for the employee. When speaking to the employee, offer a “quick reference guide” of important benefits such as these:

• benefit contact information
• overview of benefits
• name of designated Benefits Representative
• information on the Victim’s Assistance Fund and/or an unemployment claim

I know from personal experience, having this information readily available relieves some stress associated with the financial burdens of a tragedy and is appreciated by your employees.

As for employers, your benefits packages are one of the ways you attract and retain top talent. During times of crisis, employees forget what company benefits are available to them and/or may not be aware of additional state benefits. By highlighting the benefits packages, you will be able to showcase how the organization continues to supports and value employees.

About Alicia

20 years ago I had no idea other people didn’t recognize and interpret body language the way I did. It was just something I picked up on naturally.
I am a national conference speaker, facilitator, and coach, specializing in non-verbal communication. I received my Master of Science in Human Resources from the University of Houston.
My passion is helping others become influential so that they can reach their career and business goals.

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