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Return to Work Programs

Once an injured employee has begun the recovery process, Return to Work (RTW) programs are a way to get them back to work, often earlier than expected. A truly effective RTW program can cut down the amount of time an employee is out of work, improve morale throughout the company, and help keep your costs down.

RTW programs work for employers in a few ways:

1. Reduce costs. On average, a RTW program for an injured worker can reduce claims costs.  Reduced claims costs can lead to reduced premium – ultimately saving you money.   You can also save on other expenses like overtime pay for those covering for an injured employee and admin costs to hire temporary employees to fill in.

2Keep the best talent. Recovering employees may start to feel like they are on the outside and may start to look for new opportunities. By encouraging them to return as soon as they are medically able, you can help them feel valued and get them excited and inspired to come back.

3. Show your employees you care. By showing other employees you value everyone’s contributions, they may value your leadership even more.

4. Increase productivity. Injured employees who are back at work—even in a limited capacity—are likely more productive than if they weren’t on the job at all. 

5. Higher morale. Your team may be more motivated to return knowing they will eventually come back to their previous position and level of productivity. 

6. Accelerated return. When you bring an employee back under an RTW program, you’re allowing them to come back to work in a manner tailored to their recovery process.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has created a comprehensive Return-to-Work Toolkit for Employees & Employers great for small business owners looking to start their own RTW program. Keep in mind that in order to shape a complete RTW program, you’ll need to update job descriptions to include required physical activities. You’ll also be creating policies and documents to keep everyone accountable.

We should note an employer won’t be able to set up a RTW program all by themselves.  These programs are never built before an injury occurs. These programs are built in tandem by the claims examiner and the employer. As an employer, your role is to enable the RTW program and ensure it’s helping your employees return to work safely.