Demystifying Early Return to Work Programs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012, there were 905,690 days missed from work in the U.S. private sector as a result of workplace injuries. Eight is the average number of days missed per incident. For companies that are able to implement them, early return to work programs allow workers who have fallen ill or become injured on the job (or off, if your company chooses to make the offer) to return to work as soon as they are medically able to do so.

In many cases, this involves returning to work in a limited capacity rather than returning to the original position, though returning to the original position in time is often possible.

What are the Benefits of Offering an Early Return to Work Program?

The most obvious and immediate benefit for the average business is the money saved on expenses related to employee disabilities. It also helps to keep overall worker’s compensation costs lower when workers spend less time away from work for each disabling event.

Of course, the benefits below shouldn’t be overlooked for the value they deliver either.

  • Enhance Business Image
  • Reduce Turnover
  • Improve Employee Morale
  • Greater Employee Loyalty
  • Businesses Maintain Productivity
  • Reduction in Lawsuits
  • Fewer Training-Related and/or Temp Replacement Expenses
  • Decreased Time Away from Work for Injured Employee
  • Builds Better Relations between Management and Employees

Is Adopting an Early Return to Work Program the Right Move for Your Business?

For some businesses, this move makes sense. However, some industries are not well-suited for roles such as this. Even the most physically demanding businesses, however, may have some roles that are less demanding than others.

Look for ways to bring injured employee back into the fold that will help them feel productive while also adding value to the business. Remember this is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy either.

You’ll have to assess the nature and scale of the individual employee’s injury and use that when determining the proper transitional role for the employee to play upon returning to work.

This is often more difficult for small businesses that have clearly defined roles for all employees. However, the benefits of doing so are well worth the effort.

In addition to a transitional or limited role for employees, you might want to consider shortened hours or job modifications that may accommodate specific injuries.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the likelihood of employees returning to their original jobs and incomes diminishes the longer they remain off work. Bringing them back as quickly as possible is as good for workers as it is for the business.

If anything, understanding the importance of returning to work as quickly as possible after an injury drives home the need for all businesses to invest in worker’s compensation insurance to protect your employees and the investment you make in them.