Return-to-Work (RTW) programs are designed to have the injured employee brought back to work during their medical recovery process. Partly because they help a company maintain productivity while keeping costs down, an increasing number of companies are altering their RTW programs to include Stay-at-Work (SAW) policies. Under SAW, all but the most critically injured employees are assigned modified duties, or even a totally new and different job immediately following the initial medical visit.
Stay-At-Work Program Assigns Modified Duty Position Immediately
With a SAW program, the employer’s workers’ compensation coordinator contacts the medical provider during the time the injured employee is traveling from the accident scene to the medical provider. The medical provider is advised the employer will offer the injured employee modified duties that meet medical restrictions imposed by the physician, including providing total sedentary work, if necessary. The workers’ comp coordinator should also request that the employee’s work restrictions be provided immediately following the employee’s first medical visit for the injury.
A comprehensive SAW program incorporates modifications of the employee’s job description, modification of the employee’s work schedule, and changing of the employee’s work station location, if needed. By being totally flexible, the employer will limit the loss of productivity while also hopefully maintaining a high level of loyalty from the injured employee.
The Benefits of Stay At Work Programs
The integration of a SAW program with a RTW offering compliments and multiplies the benefits obtained from maintaining the latter. By reducing or eliminating the amount of time an injured employee is off work, the dual programs create the following benefits:
- Fewer lost days
- Consistent productivity
- Higher employee morale as the worker sees the employer is concerned they maintain an income comparable to what it was prior to the injury
- Predictable profits for the employer
Here’s an example of how a SAW program can impact a workers’ comp claim: say an employee falls and incurs a simple, non-displaced fracture in their arm. The total medical recovery is estimated to be three months; the first six weeks in an arm cast and the final six comprised of physical therapy to recondition the arm after wearing the cast. In the typical RTW offering, an employee would be back to work in two to three weeks following the first medical check-up with work restrictions on utilizing the fractured arm. But, in a SAW scenario, on the same day the injury occurred, the employer immediately arranges a program of sedentary work within any other physical restrictions deemed appropriate by the treating physician.
The proper implementation of an integrated RTW/SAW program lowers overhead cost and increases profitability by reducing the overall cost of workers’ compensation.
Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a monthly basis working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: email@example.com.
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