Return to Work programs: Good for employees, good for business
Doing the right thing doesn’t always reap rewards. In this case, it does. When employers develop a plan to help injured employees return to work as soon as medically possible, they take care of their workers and protect their bottom line. Grinnell Mutual’s Corporate Loss Control and Workers’ Compensation Claims Unit are poised to help insureds develop and implement Return to Work programs for their businesses.
The cost of workplace injuries
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), injury rates since 1990 have declined by almost 55 percent. While that’s great news, the fact is that indemnity, or reimbursement for lost wages, and medical costs continue to rise.
Moreover, research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a distinct correlation between the time an injured employee is required to be off work and the chance he or she will return to the job. For instance, if an injured employee is off work less than 30 days, there is a 75 percent chance that the injured employee will come back. At six months off work, this chance is reduced to 50 percent.
If the employee is required to be off work for one year, there is only a 25 percent chance that he or she will return. If the required time off exceeds two years, there is almost no chance the injured employee will return to work. The impact of being out of the workforce can be devastating.
“When people are injured to the point they can’t work, it affects their finances as well as their mental health in terms of how they view their self-worth,” said Assistant Vice President of Direct Claims Scott Sharp. “If an employer has steps in place to bring them back to work sooner, such as less strenuous job duties, it can help employees stay engaged with their co-workers and the company as they recover.”
Workplace injuries cost employers, insurance agents, and carriers, too. Additional BLS research indicates that if an injury or illness was severe enough to require time off of work, the average length of time off was eight days. Workers’ compensation claims add up quickly. On average, the cost of Workers’ Compensation Insurance in 2013 was 44 cents per hour worked per employee or 1.4 percent of total compensation for all private sector employees. An insured’s loss experience is a large factor in determining future premium costs.
“Our insureds have a financial stake in assisting injured employees to return to work even in a limited capacity. A reduced claims payment helps lower their insurance costs in the long run,” said Assistant Vice President of Direct Claims Mark Johnson. “Plus, returning employees to work as soon as possible shows injured workers and co-workers that employers care about their welfare and are willing to do what they can to help. It’s the right thing to do.”
What is a Return to Work program?
A Return to Work program is a written plan describing how a business will help its employees transition back to work after an injury. It includes a timeline for when and how to contact injured workers, ready-to-go job descriptions of modified duties that can be performed under medical restrictions, and a formal business policy. These are the same steps adjusters help insureds take after a workers’ compensation loss.
“For years our claims adjusters have encouraged policyholders to help injured employees get back to work as soon as possible,” said Director of Corporate Loss Control Larry Gallagher. “Through a joint effort between Corporate Loss Control and Direct Claims, we’ve formalized this process. Now we can assist insureds in developing a Return to Work program prior to a loss. If an employee injury occurs, the insured will be prepared with a list of modified duties that could potentially be used to get the injured individual back to work quickly.”
Customers can easily adapt Grinnell Mutual’s sample Return to Work program to their operations. Download a PDF or Word document of the Developing a Return to Work program booklet on grinnellmutual.com > Business > Preventing Losses > Safety Programs. Loss control specialists are available to help insureds customize this program.
“The booklet includes an array of checklists and forms that businesses can use to develop their programs as well as ways to communicate the program to employees,” said Loss Control Manager Glenn Sasse. “People are often wary of the time it will take to develop a written program. With this booklet, most of the planning and legwork is already done. It’s not overwhelming when you realize you can just download the Word document, modify it to fit your operation, and then implement the program.”
Construction and labor-intensive industries
Lifting restrictions are common for injured workers and can keep them from returning to a job site. Contractors and other labor-intensive businesses may wonder if they have light duties for injured workers on medical restriction. With a little creativity, business owners may be surprised at what workers can accomplish for the company.
“Every contractor brings supplies back from a job site. Perhaps an individual on modified duty could arrange and categorize those materials. They might be able to do light painting or other tasks in the office or warehouse. Think about the projects you don’t have time to address because your staff works extensively on the job site,” said Gallagher. “This modified duty option would allow a contractor to bring someone back to work, even on a part-time basis, until the worker receives medical clearance to resume his or her regular duties.”
For more information
Grinnell Mutual has resources to help you protect your business. For Safety Talks, Loss Control Bulletins, OSHA Quick Cards, and more visit Preventing Losses on grinnellmutual.com.