Return to Work Program

Return-to-Work Programs: good for employees, good for business

What happens when a worker who was injured comes back to the job? That’s when a return-to-work (RTWP) program is important. It will help guide your business in how to make a valued team member productive again, help you manage costs, and navigate the sometimes choppy waters surrounding this issue.

What a RTWP is, and why you need it

A return-to-work program eases the transition back to the workplace for an employee who has been away for weeks or months, most often due to injury or illness. It’s meant to help the employee re-acclimatize to your company and its culture as smoothly as possible by formalizing the process. With a RTWP in place, everyone knows what to expect, and how to help.

The need for a RTWP is more common than many realize. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022 employers reported 2.8 million employee injury and illness cases. That’s a jump of 7.5 percent over the previous year. Injuries that take the employee out of the workforce obviously have adverse effects on the employee’s life — including loss of income, pain, and uncertainty about the future — but they can impact your business as well. The National Safety Council says the total cost of work-related injuries and deaths was $167 billion in 2021, a figure that includes over $47 billion in wage and productivity losses. A good RTWP helps navigate the delicate balance between your business’ and your workers’ needs, with a goal of reforging the relationship.

Timeliness is crucial. According to a report from the Department of Labor, the longer an employee is off work due to an injury, the less likely they are to return. Those who do return after a significant absence — a year or so out from their injuries — often experience a reduction in their wage-earning capacity, and any training resources employers may have invested in the worker are also eroded or lost.

Bringing the employee back to the job as soon as they are medically cleared and able reduces these negative effects and brings down expenses for the business. Studies have shown that employees who were injured are more likely to return to their original job if they are brought back to work in a transitional role as opposed to not working at all during their recovery process.

Putting a RTWP to work for you

Managing employee injuries, recovery, and return to work should be as much a part of the organizational focus as any other operational issue. 

There are two essential elements for a successful RTWP. First, the employer must have a strong commitment to returning employees to work as soon as medically possible. Second, there must also be ongoing communication with your insurance provider, the  employee, and, if necessary, medical care providers throughout the recovery process.

 Grinnell Mutual’s Loss Control department has put together Developing a Return to Work Program, a booklet that can guide you step-by-step in putting together a comprehensive plan custom-tailored to your company’s and employees’ needs.

Source: Insperity

The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions, or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice and should be confirmed with alternative sources.