As an employer, a proactive return-to-work program can provide you with effective tools associated with injuries or illness by providing the opportunity for injured workers to return to the workplace as soon as it is medically appropriate. A return-to-work program (RTW) also provides a mechanism for employers to encourage employees to return to work as soon as possible after injury or illness. National statistics indicate that a return to work program is a valuable loss control measure that helps control workers’ compensation costs.
Every state agency is required by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (Labor Code, Title 5, Subtitle A, Section 412.051) to develop, implement, and maintain a program designed to assist employees who sustain compensable injuries to return to work. Such a program should include appropriate, detailed procedures that identify specific responsibilities and actions that should be taken by designated return-to-work coordinators, supervisors, and employees. It has been evidenced and observed that a good return-to-work program can have significant cost savings for an agency. In terms of statewide savings, this can mean millions of dollars saved. That is just one of the many positive outcomes, not to mention a more vibrant and productive workforce.
In 2011 the Texas Department of Insurance, Workers’ Compensation Research and Evaluation Group conducted an analysis of RTW patterns of injured employees receiving Temporary Income Benefits (TIBs) in the Texas workers’ compensation system. The result of the study of RTW rates within six months to within three years post-injury for injury years 2005 to 2009 show that the number of injured workers returning to initial employment within six months rose from 75% in 2005 to 81% in 2009. The complete report can be viewed here.
Managing employees with injuries or illness often involves having an understanding of behavioral forces that motivate an employee to be a productive participant in the workforce. The longer an employee is unable to work, the more difficult it becomes to return to full duty employment. Factors such as fear, depletion of financial resources, decline of self-image or self-esteem, and lack of knowledge about the worker’s compensation system may present barriers to an employee returning to work. Employees who return to work in a modified or alternate duty capacity are likely to recover more quickly and with less impairment. In addition, these employees are less likely to become treatment dependent.