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Claims Management

3 Essential Elements of an Effective Return-To-Work Program

If structured correctly, a return-to-work program can have significant benefits for all parties involved. Here are three items that can help create a strong program to help promote recovery for the injured worker and help mitigate claims exposure and costs for the employer.

May 19, 2023

When an employee is injured at work and has to miss time as a result of the injury, there is a large burden on both the company and the employee. The injured worker is likely receiving reduced wages and trying to heal from an injury. The company is in a bind trying to find a way to replace the work that employee usually performs. There are a few methods that make up a successful return-to-work program that can help alleviate some of the stressors of the process.

“You want a program that best assists your injured employees and helps meet your organizational goals, said Erin Grzesiowski, Senior Client Services Representative at Safety National. “All return-to-work programs should have the same objective – returning injured employees to full health and productive work, while mitigating the risks and costs associated with the workers’ compensation claim.”

Here are three criteria that can lead to a successful return-to-work program:

1. Assign an Employee Advocate

A dedicated workers’ compensation employee advocate stays in constant communication with the injured worker so both the worker and the organization are aware of the employee’s status. This role is key to a successful return-to-work program. The advocate can keep track of doctor’s visits and make sure to obtain work status notes from the doctor. When the advocate is in constant communication with the employee, they can obtain work releases quickly, which helps the company find light duty work or bring them back to full duty faster.

2. Create a Formal Light Duty Policy

It is important to have an established policy in regards to light duty. If your company can accommodate different restrictions, all supervisors should be aware of the positions available and how to accommodate. Creating a light duty job description manual can be helpful. Sometimes it is not feasible for a company to accommodate restrictions. Partnering with a vendor that finds non-profit light duty jobs for your employees is a great way to keep them engaged during their time away from work.

3. Know Your Providers

Rules vary per state as to whether the employer has a choice of a medical provider. If you are able to make a provider selection, make sure to visit providers in your area and find the one that is best suited for your employees. You want a provider that will complete return-to-work forms and provide prompt communication. If your organization is large with offices in many locations – or even rural locations – this can be a challenging task to manage. Utilizing your workers’ compensation employee advocate to build relationships with the providers, in states that allow, can help make the process smoother.

At the end of the day you want what is best for your employees. Having a detailed return-to-work policy and incorporating some of the above pieces can offer a more successful return to work and help reduce your overall workers’ compensation costs.