California Workers Compensation Insurance: Control Costs with These Return-to-Work Strategies

california-workers-compensation-insuranceAs a business owner, you’d love to have a workplace completely free of accidents and injuries. After all, that would be the ultimate way to control your workers’ compensation costs. But since accidents and injuries are inevitable, you need smart strategies to keep those costs under control.

Just remember this – when you add up the medical and pharmaceutical expenses, legal fees, time loss costs, lost productivity, and the many hidden costs, a single workers’ compensation claim can break the bank.

The biggest cost driver? Claim severity, or how long an injured worker is off work.

Every day an injured employee is off work is costing your business money, and it adds up quickly. It’s also no secret that the longer an injured worker is off work, the more disengaged he or she feels. So getting injured workers back on the job as soon as possible is not only a vital cost cutting strategy, but also a psychological boost to the injured worker. Getting them back into a work environment and around people changes their focus from being disabled to recovery.

With this knowledge in mind, getting the injured worker back on the job should be your #1 goal with every claim. That begins with getting everyone on the same page. The lines of communication with the injured employee, the claims adjuster, the nurse case manager, and healthcare providers need to be wide open to stay up to date on the employee’s medical status and physical capabilities. And right from the beginning of the claim, you should be proactively identifying alternatives to the employee’s regular job that can get them back to work as soon as feasible.

What are your return-to-work options?

Whether you have a recovering employees answer phones, sort mail, file, put boxes together, sort coupons, greet customers, or shred papers, it’s important to get them doing something productive. If necessary, offer sedentary work or reduced hours for medically restricted employees to get them back to work immediately after a doctor’s release.

Here are some of your options:

  1. Modified duty. Alter or adjust the way the employee performs his regular job, such as modifying lifting requirements or equipment.
  1. Transitional duty. Offer a light-duty or temporary transitional position until the injured employee is medically stable or has permanent restrictions imposed.
  1. Part-time duty. Have the employee work part-time work, and then gradually increase the hours and tasks as approved by the employee’s physician.
  1. Alternative duty. Offer a different position that meets the injured worker’s physical restrictions, or create a set of job tasks for duties no other employee is covering.
  1. Permanent alternative duty. If the injured worker can’t return to their previous job due to the injury, consider offering a permanent alternative or modified position that meets the restrictions set by the physician.

Even if you’re unable to offer light duty work, you still have options.

 A growing number of employers are taking advantage of alternative light duty programs in which injured workers are offered temporary transitional light duty work at nonprofit organizations. Not only does it get the injured worker doing something, but he gets the added psychological boost of helping with a worthy charitable cause while he recovers from the injury.

Bottom line: Think outside the box and consider all possibilities. Do whatever it takes to get the injured employee back into productive activity as soon as possible. It’s your best defense against claim severity and runaway claim costs.

Ready to learn more about slashing your workers’ compensation costs? Contact the California workers’ compensation specialists at Republic Capital. And, if you haven’t already done so, download our insightful cost control report, here.