Returning to Work and Returning to Normal

Unfortunately, many companies have workplace accidents at some point and these may require an employee to be away from work whether for a few days or for a few months.

 This time away from work can have a great impact on both the employer and employee, including a reduction in production, increased labor cost, depression for the employee and an increased strain on workers who are still on the job and covering the injured employee’s duties. Because of this ripple effect, it’s important to have a solid return-to-work plan that can minimize the effects on all parties involved.

An effective return-to-work plan lays out the steps that must be taken to return an employee to his or her pre-injury position. The injured employee, the employee’s supervisor and the worker’s health care provider should work together in order to create an appropriate plan. During this process, communication between all parties involved is vital.

A return-to-work process includes three key parts, assessing job tasks, identifying modified duties, and making a bona fide offer of employment.

  • Assess job tasks. Write down the separate activities or tasks involved in each job at your company. Include the physical demands (such as lifting, typing, standing) and the environmental conditions (such as vibration, noise, heat) in your descriptions.
  • Identify modified duties. Use your task list to match the available work to the injured employee’s work restrictions, as sanctioned by his or her treating doctor. Always tell the employee’s doctor about the modified duties to make sure they meet the doctor’s restrictions.
  • Make a bona fide offer of employment. If you can offer an injured employee modified duties that meet his or her doctor’s restrictions, put the offer in writing.  If an injured employee refuses a bona fide offer of employment, the employee may lose his or her temporary income benefits.

There are a number of benefits for both the employer and employee that result from a comprehensive and well-executed return-to-work plan.  You should have a return-to-work place in place before an employee is injured to ensure a smooth process for all parties.

As an employer, a return-to-work plan can:

  • Lower your claim costs. Inexpensive return-to-work accommodations can reduce workers’ compensation and other insurance costs. The Job Accommodation Network reports that 70 percent of accommodations cost less than $500 and 20 percent cost nothing at all.
  • Control your premium by improving your loss history. A company that meets or exceeds a certain size threshold qualifies for an Experience Modifer (EMOD).  Where the loss data, along with other factors are compared to that of other employers who share the same classification codes—an adjustment factor can be calculated to increase or decrease premium.
  • Retain experienced workers. The cost of replacing an injured employee can be 50 to 150 percent of the employee’s salary. If the injured employee was in a managerial or sales position, the cost to replace them could be even greater.
  • Reduce the costs of making up for lost production, such as hiring extra help or paying overtime. This plan will also help reduce added stress on other employees who may have had to increase their duties to make up for the absence of the injured employee.

The recovering employee will benefit from a return-to-work plan as well. It will help them:

  • Steer clear of the stress and depression that often come with being unable to work. For many employees, their sense of identity and self-worth are strongly tied to their jobs. Being unable to work, and often in pain, can cause depression. Injured employees who stay at work are also able to receive support and encouragement from coworkers.
  • Retain their job skills, company benefits and seniority. When an employee is able to retain job skills, it can help them return to work faster without a lot of retraining. It will also help the employee continue to feel like a part of the team.
  • Maintain their pre-injury income. Remember, workers’ compensation benefits pay only a portion of the injured employee’s salary. Occasionally, employers assume it is the insurance carrier’s sole responsibly to bring the employee back to work in a timely manner. Returning employees to work should be a partnership among the insurance carrier, employee, employer and physician.
  • Avoid the disability mindset: “I’m injured, and I cannot work.” Even though an employee may be injured, they can often do alternative, productive work while recovering. By planning a series of increased workload transitions, the injured employee will slowly transition back to full job capacity.

Employee education is always an important factor for a smooth-running workplace, and return-to-work is no exception. Ensure that your employees know there is a plan in place to help rehabilitate them back into the workplace in the event of an accident.   An effective return-to-work program benefits everyone.

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One Response to Returning to Work and Returning to Normal

  1. Pingback: Returning to Work and Returning to Normal » chad farnum

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