12 Steps for Developing a Return-to-Work Policy.

AuthorOran, Amy Siegel

Throughout the average work day, employees are faced with a variety of hazards that can lead to injuries in the office or on the job. Despite a company's best efforts to provide training and a safe environment, accidents happen. Carrying workers compensation coverage may be one the best ways to reduce the financial risk, but relying on insurance is not enough--it is also critical to implement a well-executed and carefully tailored return-to-work (RTW) policy.

There are multiple benefits to a RTW program. Getting the employee back to the office or workplace reduces the amount of money being paid out by the carrier, and as a result, your immediate claim costs and future insurance rates also go down. For employees, returning to work improves their physical and psychological well-being, reduces the amount of medication they need, and lowers the risk of addiction to substances such as opioids.

RTW policies will vary from industry to industry, so it is important to consider the nature of the work and the specific needs of the company. The following 12 steps can serve as a guide to creating a successful program:

Step 1: Implement a written RTW policy and review with employees. The plan should apply to all employees equally and be handled by one individual or team to monitor and ensure even-handed application. Be sure to follow the core policy of any well-run HR system: treat all of your employees fairly and consistently. Make sure all employees have a clear understanding of the policy.

Step 2: Decide what position to offer. You do not need to place the employee back in their prior role. Indeed, this is often impossible. For example, if you are in the construction industry and an on-site employee sustains a burn, avoidance of heat is a common restriction. Look to a job far from the heat of power tools, perhaps working within the office on administrative tasks. The employee can even use his or her field experience to help with prospects and suggest improvements management can make for other field employees.

Step 3: Ensure clear understanding of the employee's limitations. The injured employee should bring documents clearly stating the doctor's restrictions. For example, if the injured employee is based in a packing and shipping department, a back injury may be difficult to accommodate due to lifting restrictions. Consider restrictions carefully and think creatively to find the best way to keep the employee in the facility, perhaps by assigning them...

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