4 Steps to Establishing a 'Return-to-Work' Program - Rekerdres and Associates
Injuries Happen

Even with the best training, equipment, and safety procedures…on-the-job incidents occur. When this happens, an early return-to-work program benefits both the employer and the employee.


What is ‘Early’ Return-to-Work?

Rather than waiting for an injured worker to receive a full medical release, you offer a light duty work alternative (approved by the attending physician) to keep injured employees engaged and onsite.


Benefits of an Early Return-to-Work Program

One of the biggest expenses in workers’ comp is costs related to an injured worker’s lost time. Those claims dollars are put back on a business via future year premium increases.

By offering early return-to-work to injured workers, you lower the indemnity costs of a claim, and save yourself in future years.

Additional benefits include…

  • Prevent additional claims (ie – malingering)
  • Improve relations with the injured employee
  • Improve overall employee retention
  • Reduce turnover costs
  • Help the injured worker maintain a routine
  • Help the injured worker develop a feeling of productivity
Best Practices for a Successful Return-to-Work Program

Best practices for establishing a return-to-work program are broken into 4 steps…

1) Develop the Culture
  • Positivity: A return-to-work program is advantageous for all parties. Strive for support from all employees.
  • Flexibility: Some adjustments may be needed to accommodate the worker’s injuries (ie – reduced hours, special tools, new positions / roles). Be flexible to create manageable work.
  • Safety: Employees who are used to intense work may be naturally inclined to do difficult tasks. Make sure injured workers are not pushing themselves beyond their limits.
2) Create a Plan
  • Develop a return-to-work policy and a light duty program before an incident occurs. Light duty examples include answering phones, filing, basic data management, basic cleaning, greeting customers, or training.
  • Needed for Medical Release: When the attending physician needs to approve return-to-work, having an established plan is very useful.
3) Educate and Collaborate
  • Educate supervisors and managers: Make sure everyone understands why light duty is important. Don’t let misunderstandings disrupt your program.
  • Collaborate with medical providers: Inform medical providers who treat occupational injuries that your organization offers modified duty.
4) Utilize available resources
  • Resources for Program Development: The Texas Department of Insurance has information on return-to-work programs, providing rules, tools and forms. The Department of Labor has a Return-to-Work Toolkit, offering info on relevant laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Reimbursement from the State: Small employers who make modifications to help an injured employee return-to-work in Texas may be eligible for a $5,000 reimbursement.

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