5 Ways To Facilitate Better Return-to-Work Rates

5 Ways To Facilitate Better Return-to-Work RatesThe longer an injured worker is off the job, the more it costs the company and the less likely he is to return — ever. Since that can add up to major expenses for an organization, the goal should be to keep injured employees on the job or, if that’s not possible, get them back to work as soon as possible.


Most injured workers are back on the job within 4 days. But there are times when that is not the case — even if the injury itself is not that severe. There are myriad reasons employees don’t return to the job. Using a few simple strategies can aid the process.


  1. Stay in network. The medical providers that are part of your network should be well versed in occupational health issues, especially when it comes to returning the injured worker to work. Physicians in the know understand that it is not only in the employer’s best interests, but the employee’s as well. Research clearly shows people recover and heal faster when they are participating in constructive activities, rather than sitting on the couch. Physicians who are part of the employer’s medical network understand these factors and are more likely to pursue returning the worker to the job site, at least in some capacity.


However, it does not always work out that way, and the employee may go to a physician of his choice for various reasons. Even in states without employer-directed healthcare, the employer can at least recommend certain providers. Someone from the company should also be designated to drive the person to the physician’s office. Doing so will make the worker more likely to agree to be seen by the provider recommended.


Some injured workers say they are ‘fine’ at the time of injury but later seek medical care. All injured workers should be provided with a list of in-network or recommended providers. If the employee later decides to head to a physician, he may be more likely to go to one suggested to him.


Employers need to be clear about the workers’ compensation process and demonstrate their caring and concern for the injured worker. This can be done with effective communication — both formal and informal (see ‘communicate’ and ‘brochures’ below).


  1. Job Descriptions. Whether the injured worker is treated by an in-network provider or one of his own choosing, it’s vital that the physician has a clear understanding of what the person’s job entails. Providers need to be fully aware of a worker’s job duties in order to determine whether he can or should return to work. While most injured workers want to return as soon as possible, there are some who would rather ‘take some time off’ or believe they need to stay off work to recover. A thorough, detailed job description will help the physician see whether the work is as onerous as the employee has described.


  1. Communicate. This is, perhaps, the most effective strategy an employer can use to facilitate return-to-work. Injured workers are typically confused about the workers’ compensation process and feel alone. A simple phone call the day of or one day following the injury is a vital step. The call should be initiated by the worker’s supervisor or a manager the employee knows well and trusts. The call does not need to be long and complicated, but it needs to include the following messages:


  • We are sorry you were hurt. How are you doing?
  • You are a valued employee of the organization, and we want you back to work as soon as you are able.
  • Here is what you can expect and what you need to do.


Injured workers want to know how and when they will receive medical care and whether and how they will be paid. These issues should be addressed in the first call.


Beyond the initial phone call, there should be weekly conversations along with ‘get well’ cards and contact from those close to the worker.


  1. Peer-to-peer Providers. Despite your best efforts to reassure the worker and steer him to an in-network provider, the employee may visit a physician who is determined to keep the worker off the job for as long as desired. Or, the treating physician may recommend treatment that seems in contrast with evidence-based guidelines.


The best thing to do in those situations is have another provider get in touch with the treating physician, preferably one in the same specialty. A provider who is independent but associated with the employer can review the worker’s medical records and discuss the treatment with the treating doctor. That may require explaining the benefits of returning the injured employee to work, or highlighting best practices of treatment for the particular injury. Physicians are more likely to pay attention when conversing with another physician.


  1. Brochures. Most people have no concept of how the workers’ compensation system works, including injured workers. This complicated process needs to be explained and understood to get the injured worker engaged in his recovery. An employee brochure is one of the best ways to accomplish this.


Upon hiring, all employees should be given a brochure that lays out in simple steps what to expect. It should explain:

  • How medical treatment is provided.
  • How bills are paid.
  • The return-to-work process, including transitional duty.
  • That the employer wants to return the injured worker and will not punish him for getting injured.
  • That there will be a post-accident investigation to determine if there is ann acceptable workers’ compensation claim.


The same information or a shorter version of it should be provided to any worker upon injury. Most workers either will not have read the brochure initially or won’t be able to find it once they are injured. Giving it to employees when they start employment at the company shows them there is a process and expectations; giving it to them when they are injured ensures they will have a step-by-step guide for the process.





The transition from injury to RTW can and should be smooth and seamless. This can be accomplished by clearly laying out the process and expectations and showing ongoing concern for the worker.




Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a 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 is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .


Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/


©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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