When an employee is injured on the job, the meter starts running and your workers’ compensation costs can quickly add up. The main factor that increases cost is severity – the length of time the injured employee is off work. In fact, according to Liberty Mutual’s April 2011 report “The Missing Piece of Absence Management: Turning Data into Dollars,” employee absences cost U.S. businesses $100 billion every year. And according to the 2010 Edition of the National Safety Council Injury Facts, more than 100 million days are lost annually due to injuries.
How can you take control? With a proactive return-to-work program.
A robust return-to-work program is your most powerful weapon for fighting debilitating costs. Become laser focused on getting every injured worker back on the job as a productive member of the team as soon as possible.
Early return-to-work helps the injured worker:
- Get well faster, while feeling productive and valued
- Feel part of the team, maintaining a positive outlook and strong morale
- Make a smooth and gradual transition back to regular duty
- Continue earning a paycheck and benefits
- Stay on good terms with management and coworkers
In addition, early return-to-work helps employers keep trained and experienced workers on the job, reducing turnover and hiring costs while mitigating the cost of workers’ compensation claims.
There are a number of return-to-work options you can offer your injured workers:
- Modified duty. Accommodate physical restrictions by altering the way injured employees perform their usual job, such as modifying equipment or lifting requirements.
- Transitional work. If injured workers have restrictions that prohibit them from performing their regular duties, offer a temporary transitional or light-duty position until they reach medical stability or have permanent restrictions imposed.
- Part-time work. Until injured workers are released to full duty by a physician, try offering a part-time position, gradually increasing their hours and variety of tasks as approved by the physician.
- Alternative work. Offer your injured workers an entirely different position that meets their physical restrictions as specified by their health care provider. If no existing jobs fit the bill, consider creating a set of tasks for work you need done that no one else is doing.
- Permanent alternative jobs. If injured workers are permanently unable to return to their previous position, offer a permanent alternative or modified position within the restrictions specified by the health care provider.
Bottom line: Get the injured employee back to work doing something, even if it’s putting boxes together, greeting customers, training other employees, shredding papers, answering phones or filing. With a solid return-to-work program in place, most employees are likely to return earlier in their recovery period. It gives your injured workers a sense of job security, boosts their morale and productivity, and helps them change their mindset from “disability” to “ability.” When you can get them back on the job, even on modified duty, it’s a win-win for everyone.
For more information about putting together an effective return-to-work program, see the workers’ compensation insurance experts at Higginbotham.