The cost of missed time from a workplace injury can be substantial for any type of business. With more than 25% of all workplace injuries resulting in lost days and the cost of disability continuing to rise, it’s more important than ever for businesses to have a good plan in place for successfully getting people back to work in as little time as possible.
A good plan with a strong return to work policy can reduce the cost of the average disability by between 20-40%, but it requires a keen understanding of what your employees need and how it integrates with your business structure.
Developing a Strong Return to Work Policy
A good return to work policy needs to do several things to be effective at continuously addressing and reducing time lost from disabilities. This should be a set of written guidelines that clearly articulates exactly what your company’s policy and expectations are. They should be communicated to everyone in the organization and be easy to follow and understand.
That means having a clear role for all involved, with responsibilities of not only your employees but your management staff laid out with full transparency for both sides. Selection of an owner for the program is important as well, so your team knows who to communicate with and training can be established and implemented effectively. This does several things including:
- Setting an organizational mindset to “stay at work”
- Builds and supports a strong communication link between management and employees around both injury and safety
- Establishes evaluation criteria and a review process for future changes to the structure of your business
A good policy will ensure these things are in place and allow you to put in place components that ultimately reduce your costs.
What a Return to Work Policy Looks Like
So what does a good return to work policy include to ensure adherence by both sides? Here are several of the things that need to be included:
- Job Assessment and Description – It should be fully articulated the nature of a job, including the physical requirements, postures taken, lifting requirements, and conditions of the job. This detailed description, outlined by a licensed professional will help with treatment and with evaluating when someone is ready to return. It also helps with physical screening before someone takes a job.
- Comprehensive Job Analysis – Beyond the physical description of a job, what tasks are associated with each available job in your organization? On site analysis, including material handling tolerances and specific day-to-day responsibilities helps to establish the return to work options for workers who may have restrictions that prohibit them from completing their original job duties.
By fully understanding the specific needs of each job type, from physical aptitudes required to positions and endurance needed to complete a task, you can better modify duty to match someone’s needs.
Return to Work Options for Your Team
Once you’ve fully evaluated your options, you can create multiple possible plans for your injured employee. This can mean:
- Light/Modified Duty – Reduce certain job functions based on medical feedback and employee capabilities. This should involve clear reiteration of your policy and training for supervisors to ensure they understand what is involved.
- More Advanced Modifications – in some industries, light duty isn’t an option. For these industries, workers are more likely to wait for complete recovery to return. There are non-profit groups that work with organizations to help identify potential return to work alternatives to get people back in the workplace and engaged with the team again.
- Communicate Constantly – The most important thing you can do, whether someone is able to return for light duty right away or needs some time before an alternative return to work option is to stay in touch. Reach out constantly while they are injured, checking on status, engaging with management, and building a relationship not just with them, but with care providers to ensure success and progress are properly monitored.
If you prepare a clear plan well in advance, work with each of your team members, and build a plan for getting people back to work in a timely fashion, not only will you benefit from fewer lost time days, but your employees will be happier, able to return more quickly, and remain more fully engaged with the company, even when recovering.
Learn more about the benefits of a strong return to work program and how it can reduce workers’ compensation rates, and improve your overall exposure to risk by downloading our guide to Reducing the Cost of Workers’ Compensation.