Do current employment surveys adequately capture gig-economy employment? Will gig economy jobs become ghettos of unsafe or higher risk work? To what extent, if any, does concurrent work in the gig economy erode (or enhance?) the health and safety of its participants (and others in the workplace)? Do uberized organizations have any responsibilities for the health, safety or workers’ compensation of the “agents” or “contractors” they engage?
Current privacy and political restrictions often restrict responses to criticism. A workers' compensation insurer may be unable to respond about a particular case because of privacy laws meant to protect the worker and his or her family. State funds may be precluded from advertizing prior to an election or even informing a debate on performance with new data.
What’s coming as a result of the advanced analysis and the aggregation of data is more accurate risk identification, improved protective techniques and additional confirmations of work-caused illness and disease--(or associations warranting application of the precautionary principle). The exposures that will be shown by big data analytics to be associated (and perhaps later proven to be of causative significance) have already happened and are continuing to happen. Think of the lives that can be saved and years of disability avoided if we use this new intelligence and act now.
For public policy leaders: Pressure for changed systems (nationalization, dissolution of state funds, competition, opting out)
The pressure for change in the political realm has recently resulted in sudden changes in political leadership and direction in many jurisdictions. Minority positions can change the course of public policy. The challenge for policymakers is to learn from recent examples and apply the lessons learned. Ignoring minority complaints is not an option.
In workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety terms, the pressures for change come from many stakeholders. Workers, advocates, providers, employers, and insurers all have their own views. Ignoring or minimizing these perspectives may alienate current supporters and coalesce opposition to the status quo. “Opting out” of workers’ compensation was once dismissed yet there is a growing movement with some traction that has already changed how Oklahoma will approach workers’ compensation going forward. Pressure to dismantle at least some of the few remaining exclusive state funds in the US has not diminished and there are those who suggest a national scheme might be preferable [See example, DOL, “Does the Workers’ Compensation System Fulfill its Obligations to Injured Workers?”, October 2016] . Canadian workers’ compensation systems have also seen pressure to open their exclusive provincial systems to competition.
Opposition to the status quo should not be ignored as uniformed or dismissed because it is small. Demands for change may well be rooted in legitimate, long-standing and valid criticisms. Engagement will not always result in conversion from opposition to support but it can be cathartic and help crystalize the policy or practice issues that need attention. Respect, transparency, and a sense of urgency are essential to engagement.
Let me be clear, there are excellent performing exclusive state funds, competitive state funds, jurisdictions with public workers' compensation and private delivery/administration, national systems and state systems. No one model has a right to title of "best" in delivering workers' compensation. Without data and objective research on performance and outcomes, however, there can be no informed discourse, comparative analysis or considered changes to laws, policies or delivery structures Public policy requires public support. Without authoritative, objective, timely research and data to support performance (including outcomes), public support of any workers’ compensation model will evaporate. Informed, objective research may be expensive and hard to do but it is essential to assessing the effectiveness of workers' compensation systems. [See ISCRR, IWH, WCRI, CWCI for examples of the kind of research that matters and makes a difference].