Early return to work: A pivotal piece in the workers’ compensation puzzle

By Higginbotham on November 25 , 2014


Most business owners know that preventing workplace accidents is the best defense against out of control workers’ compensation costs. But despite safety measures, accidents still happen. So the next best thing is having an effective process to get your injured workers back on the job as soon as possible. After all, the moment a worker gets injured, the cost meter starts running.

That’s why your return to work (RTW) strategy is such a key piece of the workers’ compensation cost-cutting puzzle. Without it, claim costs can quickly get out of control, injured workers can get caught in a downward spiral of disability, and everybody loses. Conversely, a well-planned, supportive, and well-coordinated RTW program is a win-win. It helps the employee recover quicker and make a smoother transition back to regular duty. And, it helps you maintain productivity while showing compassion for your workers.

RTW programs also help you reduce:

  • Frequency and severity of lost time claims
  • Average cost per claim
  • Use of Family Medical Leave Act time
  • Turnover and training costs
  • Productivity losses
  • Legal costs

Did you realize that RTW programs can help control legal costs? It’s true. Two of the frequent reasons employees hire attorneys for workers’ compensation claims are lack of employer communication and availability of modified work. Getting injured workers back to work as soon as possible alleviates both of these potential issues, and therefore reduces the likelihood that workers will retain legal counsel.

How to get them back to work:

Do everything you can to keep days off work to a minimum and get the employee back to work as soon as possible, even if that means offering some kind of transitional or modified duty. If you get creative, you can find modified duty positions that contribute to your company’s productivity. Some examples include: greeting customers, conducting customer satisfaction phone surveys, sorting coupons, filing, answering phones, or shredding old documents. Getting injured workers back to work is crucial for keeping costs down and it can be a real morale booster for them.

The Texas workers’ compensation law places a heavy emphasis on RTW programs, since studies show that recovery is faster and more efficient if an employee has some kind of useful work to do. In fact, an employee's refusal of suitable light-duty work can stop the payment of workers' compensation benefits in some cases.

The best RTW programs are those that get everyone in the process on board. Successfully returning your injured workers to gainful employment is a shared responsibility between you, the employee, health care providers, physical therapists, and anyone else involved in their claims. When everyone is actively working toward the same goal, everybody wins.

To find out more about beefing up your RTW program, check out the Department of Labor’s Return to Work Toolkit. The Texas Department of Insurance is also a great resource. Then talk to the Texas workers’ compensation experts at Higginbotham about a RTW program that’s custom tailored to your business.

Tags: Business Insurance


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