By: Patti Maluchnik, CIC, CBIA
Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.
Frederick, MD 21703
Return to work programs are an underutilized and undervalued tool that businesses in all industries should look to leverage. These programs have an even larger impact in industries such as construction, where Workers Compensation claims tend to be more prevalent. Not only are these programs mutually beneficial, they have a positive impact both in the short term and long term for all parties involved.
What is a Return to Work Program?
A Return to Work Program (RTW) consists of businesses allowing workers to return to work in a temporary, limited, or light-duty capacity. These workers have previously been unable to work their usual job due to injury or illness, and participation in a RTW program provides them with the opportunity to come back to work in some capacity while they continue to recover. RTW programs can be designed to offer full-time or part-time options for employees.
RTW programs are mutually beneficial for both employees and employers.
Benefits for employees include:
- The chance to get out of the house and on the job once again. For many employees, it can signal a milestone on the road to recovery and improve their overall mindset.
- Renewed sense of security and stability. Being injured or ill not only takes a toll on a person’s body, but also their overall comfort level. Coming back to work, even if in limited capacity, helps reaffirm an employee’s value to the company and strengthens their sense of stability.
- Skill and knowledge retention. In today’s rapidly changing world, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest industry trends and innovations…even when an employee is on the job every day. Extended absences can often exacerbate this issue and eventually lead to skill loss. Being back on the job, even in a different role, can help employees feel confident that their skill set and industry knowledge will remain up to date.
Benefits for employers include:
- Increased chance of retaining experienced workers. Having a RTW program in place shows employees that their employer values them and their contribution to the company. The sooner a business can get an employee back on the job, the greater the likelihood that they will stay.
- Less training. By encouraging injured workers to return to work, employers can minimize the need for temporary employees or having to rush hire a replacement. This helps cut down on the time and expense associated with hiring, onboarding, and training new hires.
- Reduced claim costs. Having employees return to work who are currently relying on Workers’ Compensation is ideal. Not only does this help in the short-term by reducing the amount of the claim, it will directly impact a business’ experience modification rating down the line.
How to Implement a Return to Work Program
Implementing a RTW program is easier than it may first appear. There a few best practices that every business should keep in mind as they start the process.
- Ensure buy-in from leadership. The program needs to be fully supported by a business’ leadership team to guarantee success. It is important that supervising managers have the support they need to oversee returning employees to ensure a smooth transition back to work.
- Have clear guidelines and protocols in place. An RTW program should be consistent across the board for every employee. It is important that a business establishes clear routines and procedures in order to minimize any potential litigation that could come up in the future.
- Check in frequently. Whoever is responsible for overseeing the RTW program should check in frequently with both the employee, the employee’s supervisor, and the employee’s doctor. It is important that the employee doesn’t overexert themselves, potentially overdo it and get reinjured.
The great news is that there are a ton of resources for businesses to take advantage of when creating a RTW program or refining one. From online resources to professional connections, there is no shortage of information to leverage. We suggest starting with the Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/program-areas/employers/saw-rtw. Or, contact your insurance carrier as many insurance companies offer sample RTW programs as well.