A “return-to-work” program allows an employer to encourage and facilitate an employee’s return to work as soon as it is medically approved. Return-To-Work (RTW) can save employers money. Statistics support that bringing injured employees back to work in a temporary modified duty capacity results in reduced workers compensation expenses AND expedited return to full capability by the injured worker. In addition, the injured worker is contributing to the business in a meaningful way by doing work that would have to be transferred to another employee.
The program emphasizes employer/employee efforts to return the employee to the productive workforce, whether to the same duties and tasks performed prior to the injury or to modified light duty tasks. An employee’s return to the job enhances productivity, reduces employee turnover, and minimizes employee-related costs. Plus, an employer receives productive work from the employee rather than them staying home.
The return to work temporary employment need not be at the pre-injury position or wage, but at a position that allows for continued work that is consistent with the employee’s ability to perform given the injury and medical direction. Studies have shown that the sooner an injured employee returns to work in any capacity, the more likely they are to eventually reestablish a full duty schedule and full productivity. Studies have also illustrated that the longer the employee is off the job, the less likely the employee is to return to the place of employment or to a full duty status. When labor markets are tight and qualified applicants limited, the return of the employee to the operation is integral to a company’s productivity. The resulting trust and positive relationship between the employee and employer will reap rewards for both.
Below are the necessary steps to implement a Return-to-Work program for an injured employee:
- The treating doctor releases the injured worker to return to work on a restrictive basis.
- Once the employer has the release, they contact the Service Lloyds claims adjuster assigned to the injured worker to determine what job in the organization will meet the restrictions outlined by the releasing doctor. If the claims adjuster is unable to provide a suggestion, the employers loss control representative can assist.
- Once the temporary duty has been defined, the employer sends a “bona fide” offer of employment to the injured worker which provides the terms and description of the modified duty being offered.
- The injured employee can return to work once the document is accepted and signed.
- The employer pays the injured worker a wage commensurate to the temporary function and the carrier pays the balance of the pre-injury wage.
- When the employee recovers and returns to their normal duties, the program is complete.
Note: If there is no job available matching pre-injury employment, the employer does not have to retain the employee.
What if the treating doctor won’t release the injured employee? The claims adjuster can assist by contacting the treating doctor and making him aware that temporary work is available.
What if the employee does not accept the “bona fide” offer of employment? The Labor Code requires the carrier to discontinue the indemnity (lost time) portion of their benefits. The medical coverage remains in place.