Return-to-work programs (sometimes referred to as "light duty" or "modified duty") allow an injured worker to return to work with their employer while complying with a doctor’s work restrictions. An effective return-to-work (RTW) program can reduce the overall cost of claims due to extended disability, additional medical treatment, and/or legal expenses.
In a past Longshore Insider article, we provided guidelines for developing and implementing a successful RTW program and why it is a win-win situation. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, here are 10 more benefits of implementing a successful RTW program.
1. Fosters a positive work culture. Having a RTW program demonstrates the employer’s commitment to the health and well-being of their employees. There is less disruption to normal operations when all employees are working.
2. Gives the employer control of the claim’s outcome. By offering and maintaining a RTW program, employers can make a direct and material impact on an indemnity claim. By providing a viable modified job, you will reduce the cost of that claim.
3. Reduces the indirect cost of injuries. The hidden uninsured cost of injuries generally exceeds the insured costs. Employers can reduce the hidden cost of injuries by decreasing injury frequency and severity and demonstrating a strong return-to-work effort. Here are some of the more common indirect costs:
- Accident investigations
- Time spent submitting injury information to a claims adjuster
- Hiring and/or training a back-up employee
- Overtime needed to meet production schedules
- Decreased output of an injured worker upon return from total disability
- Building, tool, or equipment damage
- Product or material damage
4. Reduces a disability mindset. Experts within the rehabilitation field contend that the psychological aspect of an injury is often more critical than the physical aspect. If an injured worker is quickly placed back into a productive and stimulating role, their psychological progress will accelerate.
5. Reduces employee turnover. Studies in accident prevention reveal that companies with a high incidence of injuries and lost time will have high employee turnover. Conversely, those with low frequency and severity of injuries have a lower rate of employee turnover. A strong RTW program is one way of reducing injury frequency and severity.
6. Maintains an experienced workforce. Bringing injured employees back to work right after an injury will always aid in maintaining an experienced workforce. It will eliminate the need to hire a back-up employee or train a new employee in many instances.
7. Improves employee-management relations. Contrary to some managers’ beliefs, most employees would rather be working in some fashion than remaining at home. In addition, managers like to see the employees prone to malinger return to work. The effect of this return-to-work process will increase employees’ respect for management by demonstrating consistency for dealing with everyone in your operation.
8. Promotes employee morale and security. When an employee is off work due to temporary disability, they can become concerned if no one from the employer contacts them and may wonder if their job will be there upon return. In some cases, the employee will contact a lawyer to determine their rights. Bringing employees immediately back to work will eliminate this feeling of insecurity and promote company morale.
9. Improves work ethic. When employees are returned to a productive role as soon as possible following an injury, there will be an atmosphere and attitude of productivity. This process will demonstrate that an employee is paid a fair wage for an honest day’s work.
10. Decreases chances of re-injury upon return to normal duty. While an injured employee is away from work, sometimes for several weeks or longer, it is likely that little or no physical activity occurs. The employee may gain weight and lose muscle conditioning. In some instances, this can lead to employees being injured or re-injured upon returning to their normal job. Bringing employees back to a productive role as soon as possible minimizes the re-occurrence of injury.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Widener joined AEU in 2019 as Director of Claims Advisory Services. David began his longshore career in 2003 with F.A. Richard/American Equity Risk Services, where he was a claims supervisor for eight years. He joined the U.S. Department of Labor as a claims examiner in 2011, and was promoted to District Director six months later, overseeing operations for the Houston District Office. He is a frequent speaker at Loyola Law School’s Annual Longshore Conference, Longshore Claims Association meetings, and Defense Base Act seminars. He has developed and conducted continuing legal education seminars in conjunction with Loyola Law School and the U.S. Department of Labor. David has a B.S. in finance from Louisiana State University and is a credentialed mediator for the state of Texas.