When an employee suffers an injury, both the individual and their employer experience repercussions. There are lost work days, decreased productivity for the employer, and pain and isolation for the employee. Establishing a return to work program can help mitigate these consequences and produce a more favorable outcome for both parties.
How a Return to Work Program can Produce Employee and Employer Benefits
The benefits of return to work programs are numerous for both employees and employers. Helping employees return to work faster and in a safe environment can improve their confidence and morale, while reducing the time employers need to find a replacement to fill their position.
Benefits for Employees
- Returning to work restores their salary. While an employee is injured and not working, workers’ compensation insurance often pays only a portion of their wages. Returning to work at their old job or an alternate duty position in their company relieves them of having to rely on smaller payments.
- Meaningful work helps the employee feel valued and productive, despite any injury or disability. Sometimes, injured or disabled workers can begin to feel hopeless or unable to accomplish any job. Return to work programs can help these individuals rebuild their sense of purpose, allowing them to once again become contributing employees at their workplace.
Benefits for Employers
- An established Return to Work program helps workers’ compensation claims get resolved faster. Thinking about a company’s procedure for reporting injuries, filing claims, and handling cases before they take place makes the organization better prepared to handle them efficiently when accidents do happen. Faster claim resolution also equates to lower costs.
- Reduce lost work days. The absence of a trained employee can decrease productivity. An early return to work program can help employees gradually return to their old positions sooner, rejoin their teams, all while receiving the proper accommodation and support needed to facilitate healing.
How to Establish a Strategic & Beneficial Return to Work Program
The first step to creating a successful Return to Work program is to research the company’s injury history and what positions were most often injured. This will aid in establishing an injury reporting system, as well as determining what types of light or alternate duty can be performed for those positions.
Next, employers should consider the process immediately after the injury. What medical providers should the employee see? Who will handle the paperwork at the company? These are all important questions and should be included in the written Return to Work policy.
Finally, supervisory team members and other employees should assist in developing alternate duty positions and addressing any accommodations that may need to take place. Supervisors will play a key role in Return to Work programs by offering typical job training and also providing emotional support as the injured employee returns to his duties.