When a workplace injury occurs, there are several steps to take in the claim process such as gathering all the facts of the incident, reporting the claim, ensuring the injured employee is receiving the care they need – just to name a few. However, what sometimes may be forgotten is the potential to get the injured employee back to work when they are still in the process of treating and are unable to perform their pre-injury job functions.
That is why having a Return to Work Program is so important for any business. A Return to Work Program allows employees to return to a light duty or modified job while they recover from a work related injury and is designed to help them get back to work in a safe and timely manner.
BENEFITS OF A RTW PROGRAM
It has been proven that employees who return to light duty, or modified work:
- Recover from injuries faster
- Are less likely to retain an attorney
- Have a smaller chance of permanent effects from their injury
- Have an increased sense of self-worth and job security
A Return to Work Program also provides many benefits to the employer, such as:
- Decreasing claim costs
- Reducing lost productivity
- Avoiding having to train replacement workers
- Faster resolution of claims
DEVELOPING A RTW PROGRAM
In order for a Return to Work Program to be successful, both the employer and employee need to support the program. Employers need to adhere to the restrictions provided by the injured worker’s treating physician and ensure the work provided can fully accommodate those limitations. While employees need to commit to work within those restrictions of the assigned light duty position to avoid further injury or delay in their recovery.
A Return to Work Program should reflect an employer’s commitment to helping employees get back to work after an injury. This shows employees that their employer is serious and dedicated to the team’s health and well-being. Employees will also know there are traditional work options available if they are injured.
When developing an internal Return to Work Program, an employer should:
- Identify available light duty job opportunities internally
- Create a policy with clear guidelines that includes job duties and how restrictions will be accommodated
- Ensure employees understand the process and availability
If an internal Return to Work Program is not feasible, it is recommended that the employer work with their claims partner to find an external option, such as a non-profit organization. This essentially provides all of the same benefits of the internal Return to Work Program with the goal to transition them back to their pre-injury job when permitted.
Whether an employer has an internal Return to Work Program or utilizes an external non-profit organization, getting an employee back to some work capacity is beneficial for both parties. For the employer, it will greatly reduce the cost of the claim and positively impact an Experience Modification Rate (EMR). For the employee, returning to work can increase morale and help accelerate the recovery process.