- On any given workday, up to 5% of the total US workforce is off work;
- Lost wages and productivity account for $267 billion per year – with roughly $88 billion of that amount attributed to work injuries; and
- Time off from work due to injury accounts for additional stressors on employees, employers and the claims management team. This includes increased workplace dissatisfaction, loss of workplace morale, increased overtime (including mandatory overtime costs) and a reduction in the quality of work one performs.
The bottom line is nobody wins when an employee is off work due to an injury. Based on these factors, interested stakeholder seeking to improve their workers’ compensation programs and improve efficiency should seek to return injured workers to work – and do so as soon as possible.
Opportunities to Return Employees to Work
Quick and effective return to work benefits all interested stakeholders. There are countless ways to return an employee to work following an injury. It takes time and energy, but it has many benefits to the program’s bottom line. This requires a plan that needs to be in writing and strictly followed to drive program efficiency.
- Prepare a written RTW policy: This policy should encourage all employees regardless of their age, tenure with the employer or position to return to work following a work injury. It should require contact between all interested stakeholders. One key consideration is the number of weeks an employee can perform light duty work with the date of injury employer. Doing so tends to motivate employee’s to return to return quickly to work.
- Prepare a written job description: When it comes to job descriptions, the devil is the details. Important information should conform to the state’s workers’ compensation act and what is considered “suitable gainful” employment. Items that need to be defined include both the essential and marginal functions the employee will perform. The wages and hours and employee will work are also important;
- Identify a RTW Coordinator: A RTW Coordinator serves an important role in the RTW process. Not only are they are responsible for serving as a point of contact for the employer, but they will also understand the myriad of complex legal issues associated with workers’ compensation. This includes such matters as short-term disability, ADA, and FMLA;
- Identify and catalog light duty jobs available: There are countless activities an injured worker can perform in a light duty capacity that meets a wide variety of work restrictions. Clerical positions that are generally sedentary include answering telephones, filing documents and checking safety supplies. Other positions one can consider for employees with medium duty restrictions include light maintenance, cleaning common areas, updating safety materials (policies and procedures and First Aid kits) and grounds maintenance.
- RTW form development: Workers’ compensation is a form driven system which can be used to one’s advantage in the RTW setting. Forms can include job offers, acceptance of duty letters and other communications. Well drafted forms help communicate policies, procedures and expectations to everyone.
- Communication with the workforce: It is important that all employees are aware of and understand a well-written and consistently implemented policy. Steps to make sure this occurs includes incorporating the RTW aspects of the workplace into new employee orientation, easily accessible workers’ compensation forms, and ongoing education during quarterly/annual workplace safety training and meetings. Mentioning it at all trainings reinforces the importance of RTW as a workplace policy and can boost workplace morale.
Lost time following a work injury reduces the profitability of an employer and increases the cost of a workers’ compensation program. Taking affirmative steps to put injured people back to work through an RTW program, increase a program’s efficiency, and make a company for efficient. Part of this includes creating an effective RTW policy and making sure it is implemented within a workplace environment.
Author 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.
Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/
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