Busting return-to-work program myths

Return-to-work programs place injured employees on the right track to recovery and resuming assigned tasks. While many businesses have some way of transitioning employees back to their original roles after an injury, implementing a formal program and policies can help the process run more effectively. When employers monitor the success rate of their employees, they can modify and improve aspects of their business’ return-to-work initiatives.
Because employers and workers may misunderstand or have negative, misinformed perceptions of these programs, it’s a good idea to disband the myths surrounding returning to work.

‘Return-to-work programs are costly’
When it comes down to it, these programs are aimed at modifying employee tasks to cater to injury needs and speed up the worker’s return to normalcy. Contrary to some beliefs, these efforts are not expensive and actually can save employers money.

Traditionally, workers don’t resume their jobs until they’re 100 percent healed. That means workers can spend up to several months away from work, costing their employers a pricey amount of lost workdays.

According to the SCF Arizona return to work manual, business owners can also save on medical costs and compensation benefits with return-to-work programs.

“By providing a transitional work assignment to an injured worker, the employer can offset the workers’ compensation benefits that are paid,” the manual explains.

In addition, if employees are coming into work, they are less likely to seek costly medical treatment.

‘These programs undermine workers and cause disengagement
Return-to-work programs modify workers’ responsibilities, but don’t nullify them completely. While not giving workers enough to do, assigning them mundane tasks and not transitioning them correctly can threaten employee motivation. Instead, an effective system lets workers take on responsibilities they’re used to and ensures their work evolves as they heal from their injury.

It’s a good idea to communicate frequently with employees about the value of the work. A good program actually boosts employee motivation because it shows them the employer cares about workers’ well-being and abilities.

Return-to-work policies should clearly explain what employees should expect out of the program and what is expected of them.

‘Workers will re-injure themselves and file more compensation claims’
Workforce discusses the common disbelief that a “disability-migration” occurs when injured workers return to their jobs and file another injury claim shortly after. However, there is no evidence that proves a correlation between return-to-work policies and repeat compensation claims, the magazine states.

Sufficient supervision and risk management can help severely limit the chances of work-induced injury and claim filing.

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