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.