When an employee gets injured seriously enough to miss work, it seems easiest for them to stay at home until they are completely ready to return to work. But doing so has costs to the employee and employer that should be considered, costs that can be ameliorated by a company Return to Work (RTW) plan.
For the employee, staying home results in lower pay and social isolation from friends at work. All too often, it eliminates much, if not all, communication from the employer, leading to concerns about the employee’s worth to the company. And for many injuries, light movement promotes healing better than staying sedentary, so returning to work, done properly, can speed healing.
For the employer, having injured employees stay home reduces communication and increases the likelihood of a disgruntled employee causing problems in court. Having a well-thought-out Return to Work plan is a form of risk management; it can help a business lower its Worker’s Comp premiums, retain experienced employees, manage the cost of the injury, and reduce Worker’s Comp fraud by letting employees know up front that injuries won’t get them a long leave. The communication needed to make a RTW plan work makes the employee feel valued and provides information on the healing process for management.
A comprehensive RTW program includes a written program, job descriptions focusing on the physical requirements of each job, transitional jobs, Grab-N-Go kits, and organization-wide training. To get started on a plan, visit the Montana State Fund site. It has lots of information on the plans and how to get one started.
No matter how good your RTW Plan, it may not always work. Some employees will never be able to return to work due to the severity of their injuries. And it will not fix an unmanageable employee.