Return-to-Work Programs: Cutting Workers’ Comp Costs

An effective return-to-work (RTW) program can significantly reduce workers’ compensation claim costs. Bringing injured employees back to work as soon as it’s safe can help avoid escalating expenses. Offering modified work duties for those still recovering can prevent costs from soaring as employees draw indemnity benefits instead of working.

Extended absences can also lead to disengagement and reduced motivation to return. A well-designed RTW program can address these issues by offering light or transitional duties to facilitate a smoother return to work.

Here are 12 considerations for implementing or improving an RTW program, according to the Institute of WorkComp Professionals:

  1. Understand state laws on returning injured workers to work and the benefits they’re entitled to during transitional or light-duty work.
  2. Create an RTW program outlining steps to help injured workers return to work soon after an injury. Include details about transitional and light duties and distribute the program documentation to your staff.
  3. Be creative in identifying temporary alternative jobs that are meaningful and not punitive.
  4. Visit various worksites or departments to identify tasks similar to the injured employee’s existing job.
  5. Provide job descriptions to the treating physician for temporary transitional duties and the employee’s regular work.
  6. Obtain medical restrictions and a release from the medical provider before placing the employee in a job to avoid strain or reinjury.
  7. Encourage medical providers to approve temporary alternative duty for injured employees.
  8. Communicate regularly with injured employees returning to work for temporary alternative duty.
  9. Inform supervisors about the injured employee’s physical limitations and ensure they adhere to the doctor’s restrictions.
  10. Continue to pay the injured employee at their regular rate, even if they are working partial hours, to avoid paying lost-wage benefits and reduce future settlements.
  11. Keep the employee engaged by discussing transitional duty weekly and identifying any obstacles or opportunities for increased responsibilities.
  12. Provide feedback to the physician regarding the injured employee’s progress at the temporary alternative duty position.

In conclusion, a well-executed RTW program can expedite an employee’s return to work, maintain their sense of belonging, boost morale, and ultimately reduce workers’ compensation premiums.

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