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A Successful Return-To-Work-Program

Create a Return-to-Work Policy

  • 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.

Designate a Program Manager

  • 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.

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.

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.

Outline Goals of 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.

Evaluate and Improve

  • 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
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