Members of the claims management team and other interested stakeholders in a workers’ compensation program need to be proactive when it comes returning an injured employee back to work. This includes being ethical and hardworking when it comes to vocational rehabilitation matters. This is especially the case when it comes to overcoming common barriers in the RTW and rehabilitation process. Failure to do so can result in increased workers’ compensation costs and other added expenses.
Who is Responsible
The employer is the most important and impactful party in return to work. The best practice is for the employer to develop the position of a “RTW Coordinator.” This should be a person who is knowledgeable in human resource matters, state and federal disability and discrimination laws, and accessible to the entire workforce. The RTW Coordinator should also be responsible for all interactions with the injured worker on behalf of the employer and maintain documentation related to a workers’ compensation claim.
- Responsibilities of the Employer: This party is responsible for reporting the work injury and helping with the investigation. The employer should take action in letting the employee know their rights, which is often required under a state workers’ compensation law. They are also responsible for identifying available light-duty work opportunities and monitor the employee’s recovery.
- Responsibilities of the Insurer: Coordinate with the employer on all work injury matters and pay for all workers’ compensation benefits the injured employee is entitled to under the law. The insurer can also make recommendations on light duty job opportunities and provide education to their insured.
Overcoming Common RTW Barriers
There are numerous barriers to effective RTW following a work injury. Employers, insurers and other interested stakeholders should make an effort to understand these barriers and overcome common objections to returning an employee back to work following a workers’ compensation injury.
We do not have light duty available – Sorry!
There are countless opportunities for an employer of any size to provide RTW opportunities for injured employees in need of light duty work. The key is being creative! Examples can include clerical positions in the front office and maintenance positions such as cleaning or performing lawn maintenance. A light duty position can also include the review of policies and procedures and making sure the company’s safety training is up to date.
In order for a light duty job offer to be effective, it must meet certain requirements outlined in law or rule. Factors to consider include specific details contained within the job offer description and consistency of the offer when compared to the employee’s normal position – e.g., If the employee was working the first shirt at the time of injury, make sure the job offer is for that same shift.
The labor unions are tough – they will never agree to this!
Organized labor should always be viewed as a partner in RTW efforts. Restrictions may apply depending on the collective bargaining agreement. Every effort should be made to include labor in this process as the union benefits when its members are working and being productive.
The injured worker is too old to attempt RTW
Americans are staying in the workforce longer due to a number of different factors. Regardless of the age of an employee, it is important to remember they add value not only to the mission of the company, but it also increases workplace morale. Every attempt should be made to include older employees in the process. It may even be an opportunity to keep them off Social Security Disability via the “Ticket to Work” program.
All interested stakeholders are responsible for RTW efforts in workers’ compensation matters. This includes being creative and seeking to overcome common obstacles that prevent the implementation of an efficient program. By keeping all parties involved in the process, one can reduce workers’ compensation program costs and promote a better workplace.
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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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.