March2021CSafetyBlogHeader

Preventing accidents and injuries is always the best way to reduce costs, but an effective return-to-work (RTW) or light-duty program can also help. A RTW program provides alternative tasks for injured workers during their recovery until they are approved by a doctor to return to their regular job responsibilities. 

The longer an injured worker is absent, the higher the costs will be to your business. These costs aren’t just monetary, and can include lost productivity and decreased morale.

A return-to-work program helps by: 

  • Decreasing the likelihood of lingering or fraudulent workers' compensation claims
  • Minimizing prolonged disability expenses and speeding up recovery time
  • Eliminating the cost of hiring and training a replacement
  • Retaining the use of valued workers

Effective RTW programs can reduce overall claims costs by up to 70 percent.

ESTABLISH A WRITTEN RTW PROGRAM IN THREE STEPS:

  1. Identify preferred medical providers in your area. California business owners: Click here for specific instructions on participating in the CA Medical Provider Network (MPN).
  2. Draft a policy and document the physical demands of both current job tasks and potential light duty tasks. Then discuss the formal policy with your workers.
  3. Work closely with your claims adjuster and treating physician to ensure a light duty placement is appropriate and within restrictions.

If you have difficulty identifying light duty tasks in your company, consider alternative options such as modified duty off-site assignments at non-profit or charitable organizations.

The following are some of the reasons why a return-to-work program could benefit your business:

  1. Increase the likelihood of employees returning to work. Injured employees who remain off work longer than six months have only a 50% likelihood of ever returning to their job. That likelihood decreases to less than 10% if time lost exceeds one year.
  2. Injured employees return to work up to 50% sooner. In companies that have well-managed return-to-work programs including transitional duty, up to 90% of injured employees go back to work within four days of the injury.
  3. Faster recovery period. Good return-to-work programs treat work as therapy to help the employee recover up to three times faster than if they stayed at home.
  4. Reduce award costs. The potential for an employee to become totally and permanently disabled is greatly decreased.
  5. Reduce contentious litigation. Employees are less likely to feel their rights have been violated causing them to engage a lawyer.
  6. Increase employee morale. Return-to-work programs are a testament that employees are a valuable company asset rather than a disposable resource.
  7. It's effective. More than 90 percent of employers using return-to-work programs say they are effective.
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