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Components of an Effective Return to Work Program

- March 31, 2014 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

In my last blog I spoke about the benefits of a Return to Work Program. So now that you know how a RTW Program benefits both the injured worker and the employer, let’s look at some of the components that make up an effective RTW Program.

First you want to have a clearly written policy; having a formal RTW Program creates a plan. Your policy will communicate the purpose of the program, the goals, and the expectations. The purpose of the program should always be to relieve emotional and financial stress for the injured worker, and reduce the cost associated with workers compensation while maintaining productivity.

To have an effective RTW Program, you must offer the employee a meaningful temporary modified duty position. The best and easiest way to do this is to have clearly written job descriptions. Temporary work assignments should match the injured employee’s physical abilities, knowledge and skills.

Communicate clearly. Define the work assignment, the work schedule including days and hours of work and how long the temporary position will be available. All offers of modified duty should be in writing. If you can’t contact the injured worker then you should send the offer certified mail so that you have documentation that the offer was made; be sure to send a copy of the offer letter to the claims representative as soon as possible.

Monitor and modify the work assignment as needed.  In most instances as the employee continues to treat you can expect the restrictions to change as they get closer to their pre-injury abilities; however in some cases the employee may never get back to their pre-injury capabilities, in which case be sure to communicate with the claims representative. The temporary work assignment ends when the employee is released to full duty, or when you as the employer can no longer accommodate the temporary restrictions. Written medical release needs to be obtained before the employee returns to full duty; be sure to send a copy of the release to the claims representative.

Work with the medical provider. Effective communication with medical providers is critical to the success of your program. Develop good communication with the providers before an injury occurs. Get to know them ahead of time, call and introduce yourself or set-up a time to meet with them. Encourage them to know your business. Invite them to your workplace so that they can see the environment, operations and equipment; this will help when determining any temporary restrictions. Stay in contact with the provider, especially if injuries are rare; people come and go, offices relocate, etc. It’s best to call or stop by every six months to touch base.

Train your supervisors.  Supervisors and managers play a pivotal role in a RTW Program, therefore it’s essential that your supervisors and managers understand and follow your RTW Program.  Most employees have a good relationship and trust their supervisor to help them in their time of need, therefore it’s important to have their buy-in and support of the program.

Train your employees. Training your employees on the RTW Program and their responsibilities is a critical step. To set the expectations early, it should be part of the new employee orientation program.

I hope you have found the information on RTW Programs helpful. If you have questions or need assistance with setting up a program in your workplace, contact your workers compensation insurance company’s risk management department. As always, I welcome your feedback and would like to hear how a RTW Program has helped your company.