Client Access | Six Steps To A Successful Return-To-Work Program

Step 1 - Create a policy reflecting your company's dedication to Return-to-Work Program.

  • Develop a policy announcing your Return-to-Work Program and management’s commitment to the process.
  • Position the new policy as an employee benefit.
  • Sponsor an event to announce and communicate the policy to employees.
  • Conduct separate training sessions for supervisors.
  • Include the policy in personnel manuals and new employee orientation material.

Step 2 - Designate one person to manage the program.

  • When return to work is left to chance, staff may perceive a lack of appropriate duty for the injured employee and safety personnel.
  • Appoint an Injury Coordinator with appropriate authority to drive the program and coordinate the collection of physical demand job descriptions.
  • The process will run more smoothly with one person in charge of establishing transitional duty, communicating expectations and ensuring a win-win situation for everyone - including the injured employee and the employer.

Step 3 - Adopt an Empathy Program.

  • Studies show that frequent contact with injured workers increases early return to work and decreases the likelihood of claimants seeking legal assistance.
  • The immediate supervisor should contact the injured employee within 24 hours of the accident and at least once a week until the employee returns to work.
  • Injury Coordinator and/or HR representative should also make regular calls to injured workers.
  • Assure employees they are missed and explain workers' compensation benefits so employees know they will be taken care of.
  • These courtesies promote a rapid return to work and can counter negative messages or feelings the employee may experience.

Step 4 - Establish a guaranteed transitional duty period.

  • Guarantee transitional duty for a set period of time. Although 60 days is average, some employers use 120 days or more.
  • The length of time may be altered to conform to average diagnostic recovery time frames.
  • If an employee is unable to resume regular duties after transitional duty ends, enlist your personnel department's help to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Step 5 - Stipulate the goals of the transitional duty.

  • Transitional duty should have agreed-upon therapeutic goals.
  • Your medical panel physician can help outline the employee's abilities to ensure tasks are meaningful and promote recovery.
  • The employer and the employee must both adhere to any physical restrictions.
  • Your Return-to-Work Program is an employee benefit, a privilege. In return, expect employees to be productive during the process.

Step 6 - Evaluate and improve the program.

  • When the employee achieves full-duty status, take the time to hold a brief discussion with employee, the employee's supervisor, physician, and anyone else key to the program's success.
  • Find out how well your program worked.
  • Are there areas that could be improved?
  • Address actual and potential problems to make the next scenario even better.

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