Return-to-work programs frequently get cited as essential claims management tools for helping injured workers recover while eliminating employer costs. Yet many employers have not implemented programs, perhaps fearing that the task is too daunting. This session at the 2016 National Workers’ Compensation & Disability Conference offered strategies to create a return-to-work program.
- Ann-Marie Amiel, Risk Manager, Columbus Consolidated Government
- Patricia Biegler, Director of Public Works, Columbus Consolidated Government
Return-to-work programs can help reduce injured worker absences, reduce costs and improve employee morale. There are several elements to include in any successful return-to-work program.
- Create an accident-review policy that makes employees accountable. Use the finding of review board to improve the work environment.
- Establish a written light-duty policy (including eligibility, time limit, rotation) detailing clear-cut time limits so everyone is aware of expectations.
- Create coordination between the workers’ compensation manager and other departments.
- Understand the connection between safety training and workers compensation.
- Create return-to-work strategy and make it a priority.
- Control game playing, which can derail your progress.
- Establish programs and incentives to promote fitness. With an aging workforce, this is becoming more important than ever.
- Know your TPA and medical providers. Visit your providers, get to know them personally and become their resource.
- Utilize knowledge and experience of experts and vendors. Many of them will come in and provide educational sessions for your staff or safety training.
- Do not be afraid to ask detailed questions of your TPA and/or medical providers.
- Provide accurate and specific job description to all medical providers
- Utilize work conditioning. It is worth the cost so that your worker does not become re-injured.
- Try to be a the 12-week window for return-to-work. There are several psychological problems that can arise if you do not. Communicating proactively helps to combat this. Employees want to feel like they are part of the process.
- Obtain buy-in from all senior managers. If you do not have this buy in, the rest of the organization will not embrace your programs.
- Create a wish list of assignments over time (examples include data entry, record searching, inventory, answering phones).
- Match up the skill sets with the assignments and position them as opportunities, rather than required assignments.
- Give the light-duty supervisor and employee a memo listing duties and restrictions and require compliance.
- Think in terms of your long-term organizational plans.