Return to work programs focus on bringing employees back to work as soon as they are medically able. Employees who are out of work receive more medical treatment, so reducing lost time will reduce the cost of both lost wage payments and medical costs.
One of the biggest causes of high workers comp costs is a disproportionate length of disability. If an employee is injured January 1, and healed January 15, they should be back to work January 15 – not June 15 or July 15. You must bring the time out of work back down so that your employee’s recovery time is proportionate to the length of time of the actual medical disability.
Top 12 Steps to Bring Employees Back to Work Sooner
1. Have a Transitional Duty Policy that requires participation when an employee is injured.
2. Communicate your program to the workforce in a positive way so it becomes part of your corporate culture.
3. Show management the cost savings of an effective transitional duty program with our Transitional Duty Calculator (below).
4. Establish a goal to bring 90% or more of injured employees who would lose time from work back to work within 1-4 days after in the injury.
5. Use Injury Duration Guidelines to estimate appropriate timeframes for each injury.
6. Develop a Transitional Duty Job Bank for employees who cannot return to their original job immediately after an injury. Put at least 10 assignments on this list. Ask supervisors and employees for suggestions. Ask them to create a “wish list” of things they would like to have done but have not had time to do. Include these items on the transitional duty task bank. Send this transitional duty job bank to your TPA.
7. Customize transitional duty tasks (and job schedules) so they can be restructured easily to accommodate increased ability as the injured worker recuperates.
8. Hold weekly meetings at your workplace with all employees who are out of work or on transitional duty to discuss progress and obstacles to return to work. Provide transportation to these meetings if an employee is unable to drive. Use Weekly Meeting Guidelines to structure this meeting.
9. Send all employees who are currently out of work a letter requesting their medical restrictions. Include a Work Ability Form with the letter and provide date and time of their next weekly meeting.
10. Work with a vendor that provides off-site employment temporarily for employees who are unable to travel or for any other reason cannot come back to a transitional duty position in your facility.
11. In states where it is permissible, have your medical director contact treating doctors to discuss medical restrictions if an employee’s treating doctor says they are unable to perform any work. The employee’s doctor may not understand you have a transitional duty program and will customize jobs to meet almost any temporary restrictions.
12. Make sure to coordinate your Transitional Duty Policy with all other state and federal leave and absence regulations such as ADA, FMLA, COBRA and ERISA.