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 in new employee orientation material.
  • Display posters showing your return-to-work policy statement.
  • Make sure employees have access to return-to-work procedures and statement of responsibilities.
  • Remind employees about the return-to-work process by offering information in company newsletters, payroll envelopes, and your company’s information center.

Step 2 — Designate one person to manage the program.

  • When return-to-work is left to chance, staff may perceive a lack of appropriate authority to drive the program and coordinate the collection of physical demand job descriptions.
  • Appoint a Return-to-Work 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 return-to-work coordinator should contact the employee within 24 hours of the accident and at least once a week until the employee returns to work.
  • Assure employees that 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 American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and FMLA.

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 that 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 him, his supervisor, physician, and anyone else key to the program’s success.
  • Find out how well your program worked.
  • Are there ideas that could be improved?
  • Are accidents, injuries, and claims data being analyzed by an accurate information system?
  • Ensure that executive management has “bought in” to the program, as well as encouraging employee involvement in the return-to-work process

Statement of Responsibilities…