Why Employers Need a Return to Work Program

Employees are every company’s most valuable asset, which is why safeguarding their safety and having a successful Return to Work program is essential. The loss of a single worker can lead to costly productivity issues and decreased morale, especially following an on-the-job accident. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2017, many of which resulted in significant time away from work.

While an employers’ first priority is to make sure injured workers receive proper medical attention, it’s also important to aid their recovery and offer them a smooth path back to their regular job duties. That’s where a comprehensive and compassionate Return to Work program can make a difference.

What is a Return to Work Program?

A Return to Work (RTW) program provides a structured framework that supports your employees’ transition back to a normal or modified schedule following a workplace injury or illness. It offers clear but flexible procedures that can be easily adapted to the specific recovery needs of the injured worker. While the primary goal of a RTW program is to help employees resume their pre-injury responsibilities as quickly and safely as possible, they also serve as a guiding resource for your management team.

An effective RTW program contains a variety of detailed policies that outline every step of the process, from reporting workplace accidents to consulting with an injured employee’s treating physician. Some of the core objectives of Return to Work programs include:

  • Accident prevention: Active jobsite inspections, hazard analysis and hazard communications  help you identify key risks and take preventative measures to reduce on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
  • Employee wellness: Health and wellness initiatives that encourage regular exercise, healthy diets and mindful work habits supports your workers’ overall well-being.
  • Personalized support: Straightforward RTW policies provide a clear roadmap for your employees’ recovery and keep management focused on long-term solutions.

Another important aspect of RTW policies is responsive communication, as it enables employees, employers, claims adjusters and medical practitioners to work toward a shared goal: helping an injured worker recuperate and safely return to a normal employment schedule.

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Reasons to Have an Effective Return to Work Program

Incorporating RTW policies into your employee health and safety plan offers a variety of financial and operational benefits for your company and workers. A comprehensive program helps employers stay proactive before and after a workplace accident happens, ensuring your management staff can develop more effective preventative measures to safeguard other employees from similar hazards. While it’s difficult to completely eliminate all workplace risks, there is usually room for improvement.

Top 5 Benefits of a Return to Work Program:

  1. Decreased medical, legal and disability claim costs: The longer an injured employee is away from work, the more expensive their insurance claim becomes. Providing your workers’ with emotional and administrative support streamlines their recovery and encourage them to return as quickly and safely as possible. Additionally, RTW programs allow employers to anticipate medical and disability costs, efficiently manage injury claims, and reduce the financial impact of workplace accidents.
  2. Increased employee morale and productivity: Offering injured employees a customized Return to Work plan communicates care and concern, and demonstrates your commitment to their personal well-being. Workers who feel respected and valued tend to be more direct about their concerns and individual needs, which makes it easier to coordinate modified and light-duty assignments. Fostering a mutual understanding with your employees is an essential part of building a satisfied and productive workforce.
  3. Reduced time expenses resulting from lost productivity: According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employee injuries cost U.S. employers around $225.8 billion annually in lost productivity. Although an injured worker may not be able to perform their normal job duties, offering them part-time work or light-duty assignments are a constructive alternative. This allows your employees to protect their earning power by remaining active and engaged during their recovery, though it’s important to prioritize their health and safety.

The Cost of Employee Injuries

  1. Faster identification of workers’ comp fraud: While fraudulent insurance claims are relatively rare, it’s important to have processes in place to identify irregularities and avoid costly oversights. Unfortunately, claim-related fraud is considered the most common type of workers’ comp fraud, according to the Council of State Governments, though it can be mitigated by staying in touch with an injured employee’s medical provider. RTW programs provide clear procedures for maintaining effective communication during every stage of the recovery process.
  2. Motivated workers who want to return to work quickly and safely: Return to Work programs provide clear procedures for maintaining open and honest communications during every stage of the recovery process. This is crucial to reintegrate workers back into your organization, as a lack of direct contact may leave them feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Studies have shown there’s only a 50% chance that an injured employee will return to work after a 6-month absence. Return to Work programs help employers motivate their workers to maintain a productive mindset with a focus on safety.

Another potential benefit is the possibility of lowering your organization’s experience modification factor. Companies that experience frequent workplace accidents often have higher insurance costs compared to other employers in their industry. A high experience modification factor may significantly impact your workers’ comp premium, which is why it’s crucial to maintain a safe working environment for your employees. An effective RTW program helps reduce related claim costs through accident prevention and employee safety training initiatives.

At FFVA Mutual, our safety and claims Solutionists are here to help transition your injured employees back to work quickly and safely. To learn more and access our Return to Work DIY starter kit with downloadable resources, click here.