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How to Improve Your Return-to-Work Program

Workers' Compensation Claims and Cost |
Written by Dell Dorn

Having a good Return-to-Work program in place is one of the most important components of a healthy company. Although prevention is always best – and can be encouraged with health and wellness programs and an overall culture of health – accidents do happen and some employees will suffer an injury. The key is to be prepared for accidents and have a plan ready to deal with them and get your employees back to work safely.

A Return-to-Work (RTW) program will help your employees ease back into work as well as save your company costs associated with injury, such as disability payments, medical costs, and litigation costs. It will help keep employees productive, engaged, and happy with the company.

How can you improve your Return-to-Work program? Here are some important features a good RTW program must have:

 

1. Clearly defined Return-to-Work policy

Perhaps the most crucial first step in establishing a quality Return-to-Work program is to clearly define your RTW policy. You will need written guidelines that clearly and fully explain your company’s policies and the roles of involved parties, including supervisors and risk managers. Your RTW policy should also include specific guidelines on what the company offers in terms of transitional work, level of pay, and available health and wellness programs.

Once your Return-to-Work policy is completed, make sure all employees are aware of and understand the procedures. This information should be readily accessible for all employees.

 

2. Effective transitional work programs, including light duty, modified duty, and alternative work options

When an employee has been injured, it is important to evaluate what kind of work they can now handle and for how long. The employee will be unable to return to his or her regular work immediately, but you can offer various transitional work options. Some employees may need light-duty or modified-duty work, and some may need to work limited hours. You may have an employee who cannot perform his or her original function, but can be useful in another area of the business; internal relocation can keep that employee busy and fulfilled, while still cared for by the company. Alternately, if working from home is an option that meets with your company’s field of work, it could be a good fit for some employees. See if telecommuting would be a good temporary solution.

If your employee has light- or modified-duty work or is internally relocated, make sure other employees understand the worker’s new temporary role. Ask that they help out with that employee as needed. Supervisors should also be coached to be flexible and empathetic with their returning worker.

Your employee will need time to ease back into their full workload. Communicate regularly with the injured employee so that you are both on the same page in slowly re-introducing more work. Rushing an employee into more work than he or she is ready for can result in re-injury and bad feelings. Make sure the transitional work duties are clearly defined so his or her doctor can determine whether the workload is safe and appropriate.

 

3. Open communication between all parties

This may seem obvious, but it is worth emphasizing the importance of open communication. All employees should be aware of the Return-to-Work policies, and when an employee has been injured and needs help within the RTW program, communication is more important than ever. Ensure that the employee is comfortable with his or her transitional work options and is not being overexerted. Ensure also that his or her supervisors, managers, and co-workers understand the reduced or altered workload. Department managers and supervisors should be trained in dealing with the RTW environment and maintaining a positive, empathetic, and flexible approach to transitioning employees. Furthermore, communication must be open with risk managers, health providers, and all other involved parties.

 

4. Employee participation in health and wellness programs

Encourage all employees to take part in the health and wellness programs your company provides. This can be especially important for employees with chronic pain, disability, or an injury. They say prevention is the best medicine, and participation in health and wellness programs can prevent an injury from occurring in the first place. However, even after an injury has occurred, health and wellness programs can be a valuable part of the Return-to-Work process. On-site therapy can aid in getting the employee back to his or her old self while easing into work with limited duties. Make sure the employee’s doctor has approved involvement in the wellness programs your company offers.


 

These are just four vital components in implementing a good Return-to-Work program. Remember, providing quality health and wellness programs, especially those with onsite treatment therapy, can help prevent an injury from occurring in the first place. They are a valuable investment and can limit the injuries that employees suffer. But when injuries do occur, you’ll need a top-notch Return-to-Work program in place. In order to improve your existing RTW program, look at what you already have: Is your policy clear, detailed, and consistent? How can you make it more complete and flexible? Are your transitional work options clearly defined and able to meet the needs of employees? Re-evaluate your RTW program annually to ensure it meets all of your company’s needs, and make sure everyone in your company understands the Return-to-Work program and the resources you offer. Remember to be flexible and positive, and by following these guidelines, your Return-to-Work program will be a valuable asset in your company.

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About the Author

Dell Dorn

Dell Dorn is the founder of DORN Companies. He started DORN in 1998 to help employers save money on workers' compensation claims and reduce OSHA recordables. Today, DORN customers realize the immense cost of employee pain and the enormous impact our service has on employee morale and their bottom line.
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About the Author

Dell Dorn

Dell Dorn is the founder of DORN Companies. He started DORN in 1998 to help employers save money on workers' compensation claims and reduce OSHA recordables. Today, DORN customers realize the immense cost of employee pain and the enormous impact our service has on employee morale and their bottom line.
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