Best Practices for Early Return to Work
The purpose of the worker's compensation system is to provide a method to restore an injured worker as nearly as possible to the pre-injury earning capacity and potential.
It is to everyone's advantage for an injured worker to return-to-work as soon as possible after injury, within medical restrictions, because returning to suitable work helps employees more readily recover from injuries, employers gain lost productivity, lower compensation costs and less dependency on other types of assistance. It is helpful if employers have some type of limited duty, or alternate work, to help workers gradually get used to being back in the workforce.
Studies have shown that employers who have proactive return-to-work programs had:
- a lower rate of lost workday cases,
- a reduction in worker's compensation claims incidence, and
- fewer lost workdays per 100 employees.
A proactive program includes:
- company-based interventions for assisting injured workers at the onset to return to work.
Employees who participate in return-to-work programs successfully returned to work, typically at their pre-injury pay rate. The return-to-work programs:
- reduced claims,
- lowered premium and
- litigation expenses and improved the employer's public image.
There are other good reasons for an early return to work including:
- If employers have some type of return to work program, the majority of workers will return to their jobs early in their recovery period.
- Most injured workers WANT to go back to work.
Injured Workers and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Return-to-work programs do work. With the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) employers have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations for individuals who have a disability. An employer or insurance carrier may seek job site modification assistance for an injured worker through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or through private sector vocational rehabilitation specialists in your area. Another source may be your local yellow pages under such subject headings as Ergonomic Consultant, Industrial Health Consultant, or Rehabilitation Services.
For all parties concerned, it is usually best to try to re-employ an injured worker in a capacity that would benefit both parties. When this is not feasible, you or your Worker's Compensation insurance carrier may be obligated to provide a method for that worker to return to work. This method could include job placement services, on-the-job training, or vocational or other schools.