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Maximizing Effectiveness: Best Practices for Workers’ Compensation Return-to-Work Initiatives

Thursday, March 28, 2024
Maximizing Effectiveness: Best Practices for Workers’ Compensation Return-to-Work Initiatives

A vital aspect of workers’ compensation is the implementation of a robust return-to-work (RTW) program. While preventing injuries and illnesses remains a top priority for minimizing workers’ compensation expenses, having an effective RTW program in place can notably mitigate costs for employers and enhance the well-being of employees following an incident. Explore further to discover insights into RTW programs and the recommended practices for their establishment and sustainability.

Return to Work Programs

A Return to Work program is characterized by specific, documented organizational policies and procedures that provide guidance to supervisors and employees in managing the Return to Work process following a work-related absence due to injury, illness, or chronic disease. Its main goal is to expedite the individual’s recovery and reintegrate them into productivity, achieved through various means such as referral, counseling, coordination of medical care, or adjustments to the workplace or job responsibilities. Return to Work programs may also include vocational rehabilitation services alongside transitional work options to facilitate a smooth return to full productivity.

Return to Work Program Best Practices

A Return to Work program can assist employees in returning to work faster after a work-related illness or injury, increasing their odds of a full recovery. It also allows employers to save on workers’ compensation costs. Below are best practices for employers to consider to help ensure their Return to Work program is effective:

  • Address the basics by reviewing state-specific laws, outlining the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the Return to Work program, and setting clear expectations.
  • Put the program in writing and inform employees about Return to Work policies and procedures as well as processes for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
    Establish a Return to Work contact person whom an injured employee can reach out to with any questions.
  • Create a safety committee including both management and employees. The committee can identify hazards causing injuries and illnesses and find solutions. Employee members can provide insight into the physical demands of their roles.
  • Communicate early and often with impacted workers.
  • Evaluate a returning employee’s condition and modify job tasks while they are healing. If they are unable to return to work in their previous capacity, match the employee’s skills to where they can work within the company.
  • Develop individual plans that outline necessary actions for a worker to resume their pre-illness or pre-injury role. In larger organizations, plans should be made collaboratively by the Return to Work program coordinator, the injured worker, the worker’s supervisor, the health care provider, the union representative, and legal counsel, if applicable.
  • Maintain a job duty bank that lists jobs coordinated with doctor restrictions that employees can be placed into when they have restrictions from a work-related illness or injury.
  • Integrate and coordinate with all stakeholders to share information while maintaining a focus on employees’ well-being of employees.
  • Develop functional job descriptions that explain the physical demands and movements necessary for specific job tasks to help employers safely place employees who are returning to work after a work-related illness or injury.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and adjust the program by looking at the measurements they should have in place, setting up ways to gather the important data needed to review the Return to Work program, and continuing to adjust where necessary.

Return to Work programs that follow best practices provide benefits to employers and employees as they work toward full-time, full-duty work. For more Return to Work guidance, contact us today.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.