When an employee gets injured on the job, the ultimate goal is to get him or her healthy and back at work as soon as possible. After all, you need a healthy workforce to operate a business, and the claims process can be costly and disruptive.
But not every business has an effective return-to-work (RTW) strategy. That’s surprising, since it’s one of the most significant things you can do to control your claim and overall workers’ compensation costs. And it’s a win-win; a robust RTW program gives you leverage to control the total financial impact of your employees being off work, and it engages your injured workers and provides them valuable physical and psychological benefits that can speed up their recovery – and get them back to work sooner.
In short, a successful RTW program is the best medicine for controlling the overall cost of work injuries, getting injured workers back to productive employment, and getting your operation back to 100 percent.
But you can’t just be reactive. Your RTW program needs to be running on all cylinders before and after work injuries happen.
A successful RTW program starts long before any work injury occurs. That means you need to:
- Communicate your expectations and policies. Your employees need to know from the beginning what’s expected of them as far as safety and injury prevention and proper procedures for reporting an injury. Let them know the company values them as part of the team and is committed to helping them recover and return to work as soon as possible when they get injured.
- Eliminate or discourage disincentives. When an injured worker receives more income and benefits sitting at home than they get while on the job, it’s hard to convince them that getting back to work is the best option. Be cautious about using wage continuation and supplemental income programs, holding jobs open indefinitely, allowing vacation or sick time to accrue while an employee is on workers’ comp, or other measures that can kill an employee’s motivation to return to work.
- Create transitional job descriptions. For every position, develop a transitional duty work description, and make it clear that those duties will change as the injured worker recovers and the treating physician reduces work restrictions.
Once an injury occurs, you should partner with your insurer or third party administrator (TPA) to:
- Keep the injured worker engaged. Let injured workers know what to expect from the process. Talk with them regularly to discuss their progress, keep them apprised of the status of their claim, and let them know you want to help them recover and get back to work.
- Collaborate with the treating physician and vocational rehabilitation specialist. Let the physician know the injured worker’s job duties and the availability of light duty work, and assist the voc rehab specialist in developing a specific RTW plan based on the employee’s injury and restrictions.
- Monitor the employee’s progress to make sure he or she is adjusting to the temporary assignment, be flexible with accommodations, and be proactive about resolving any issues.
- Contest claims when necessary. Don’t be afraid to question the claim if the injured employee becomes noncompliant, appears to be exaggerating a disability, or suddenly develops a condition that wasn’t part of the original injury. That could mean investigations, medical exams, and other distractions, but it’s crucial to maintain accountability and the integrity of the RTW program.
How effective is your RTW program? Call the California Workers’ Compensation specialists at Republic Capital Claims Administrators today, and we’ll make sure your program is on the right track. We offer a variety of claims consulting services and ancillary programs, available whether or not we are your contracted TPA, and can customize a program to your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more.