At the 2017 annual PRIMA conference a panel explains how an effective return-to-work program includes much more than light duty. A complete program includes planning and analysis that takes place before an accident or injury occurs.
The panel for this session includes:
- JJ Schmidt, Senior Vice President-Managed Care, York Risk Services Group
- Kimberly Wickert, Vice President – Rehabilitation, VocWorks
- Danielle Dresden, M.Ed., CRC, Regional Managers, VocWorks
- Jen Hamilton, Workers Compensation Claim Manager, CSAC-Excess Insurance Authority
Why do you need a return-to-work program?
- 40%-60% of expenses are associated with a claim
- 2014: lost time claim frequency declined 2% but costs increased 4%
- average disability cost per clams is $23,600
- medical severity for lost time claims up 4% in 2014
The benefits of a return-to-work program are better employee communication, a work environment where employees feel more valued, lower incidences of fraud or litigation, lower turnover costs due to reduced need of injured worker replacement, better retention of more experienced workers, and faster healing times and medical improvement, leading to lower medical costs.
A successful return-to-work policy should include the following:
- written guidelines that clearly articulate the company’s RTW policies and philosophy
- clear roles, responsibilities and expectations.
- RTW program owner
- organizational awareness and training
- create a “stay at work” mentality
- supports/directs strong communication with workers
- ongoing evaluation and review as business changes
Job analysis for a return-to-work program includes understanding functions of each position helps assess return to work options for workers with restrictions. Analyses assist employers in properly placing injured workers into job tasks fitting restrictions. Conducting onsite analyses to identifying work-specific essential functions of identified jobs, including material and non material handling tolerances of each key to ensure accuracy of demands of each position. Observe employees in each position to create a task-by-task outline of each job, documenting essential job functions, job tasks elements and equipment/tools utilized to complete each task. Complete a summary of physical demands for each task to determine all lift and carry demands, physical aptitudes, positions, abilities and endurance.
VocWorks assisted a national transportation company in partnering with non-profit organizations to design a Modified Duty program when an employer was unable to accommodate restrictions onsite. They are very few transitional jobs within the organization due to the nature of the business. Matching a placement at a non-profit with a recovering worker’s current skills and physician documented restrictions. Provided a structure and sense of purpose that builds confidence in the recovering worker’s ability to handle their regular duties when they return to work. This also provides social interaction and improves an injured worker’s mental and social well being. Normally a program like this lasts around 90 days as a rule of thumb. Evaluate after 90 days and make a recommendation for the injured employee.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!!
Early and frequent communication with injured employee is key. The employer needs to set the tone for cooperation between all parties. Actively involve managers and supervisors and help the employee feel connected in the return to work process. Track and communicate success and progress.
The key takeaways from today’s presentation include have a program customized to meet employer’s organizational needs and culture, there are benefits to the employer and employee, this promotes remain at work philosophy throughout the organization, this program can be modified as needed to incorporate industry trends or changes in law. These programs can be used for overall disability not just workers’ compensation.