March 31, 2016 Leave a comment
When a workplace accident occurs there are a number of thoughts that enter your mind, from the wellbeing of your employee to your bottom line, to the company’s productivity and even your workers’ compensation premiums. It can be a stressful time for everyone involved but you have an opportunity to focus on return-to-work and help your employee and company make the best of an unfortunate situation.
These five tips for a successful return-to-work program will help you minimize the consequences of a workplace accident for you and your workers:
1. Lay the groundwork
Laying the groundwork far ahead of time is the key to a return-to-work program being successful after an accident occurs. This starts by developing a written policy that outlines expectations for you and employees, while also confirming your commitment to the program. Texas Mutual policyholders can use our return-to-work kits for large and small businesses to get started. Your return-to-work policy should include a statement from your company’s leadership, procedures that specify what to do after an injury occurs, and statements of responsibility for the supervisor, employee and return-to-work coordinator, if you have someone fulfilling the role.
After the policy has been developed, it’s important to write out job descriptions, as well as tasks performed and physical demands of each position so the information is available when you need it. You should also identify what tasks can be performed as part of modified, light duty work. Texas Mutual’s return-to-work kits provide extensive information about identifying roles and tasks.
2. Help employees understand return-to-work
After your program has been outlined, it’s vital for employees to be informed of the program and understand how it benefits them. Start by sharing the new policy and procedures with any team members that will be expected to take action after an injury occurs, such as supervisors and safety personnel. Their buy-in is important, so take the opportunity to help them understand why return-to-work is beneficial for your bottom line, the company’s productivity and the injured employee. After this tier of employees is informed, introduce the new policy to all employees at staff meetings, through email or in your newsletter, focusing on how return-to-work can provide a path back to full employment, helps them remain productive and greatly increases their likelihood of returning to work after an injury overall.
3. Spring into action
There’s nothing that defines the success of your return-to-work program more than the period of time immediately following an injury. Your policy, procedures, statements of responsibilities and job task identification will guide the process, so all that’s left to do is follow the path you defined when you committed to a return-to-work program. After the worker has received appropriate medical care, communicate with them about modified or light duty responsibilities they can still perform. Follow the physician’s guidelines. It’s helpful to send a letter with them to the doctor explaining your return-to-work program so the physician can assess the employee’s ability to perform not only the current job but also modified duty. A sample letter can be found in Texas Mutual’s free return-to-work kit.
4. Go the extra mile to communicate
Staying in contact with the worker, physician and adjuster is the best way to ensure a smooth, successful process. A small investment of time makes it much easier to get your employee back to work and to help them return to regular duty employment when the time is right. Preparation and action are necessary to get the program off the ground, but it’s your commitment to communication that will make it a success.
Communication with your injured employee will likely include traditional channels such as phone calls and emails, but keep them engaged in the business by also sending them company-wide communication they’d otherwise miss, such as newsletters, and inviting them to company events. Ongoing communication with their physician is also important, starting with the initial letter explaining your return-to-work program. Your claims adjuster will also want to know that you have a return-to-work program so they can help the injured employee work toward return-to-work success.
5. See it through
An employee returning to light-duty work is a significant step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of their return-to-work story. Whether the goal is to eventually return to full employment or to transition to a different role completely, you should continually check in with the worker to monitor how their recovery and work are progressing. As an employer it’s also important to ensure that the restrictions and guidelines set by a physician continue to be followed, while also staying in contact with the physician. This is especially important as physical duties are increased or changed. Return-to-work success doesn’t happen overnight but by staying involved from start to finish, you and your worker can reap big rewards.
Find out more about implementing a return-to-work process in your business by visiting Texas Mutual’s website.