Employee safety should be one of the top priorities in every company.  In addition to the dangers posed to employee health and well-being, workplace accidents often have a huge impact on the employer’s bottom line. Accidents cannot always be prevented, but their effects can be mitigated. A Return to Work program is the most effective way to manage the resulting costs associated with an injury; as well as to aid in worker recovery. Research has shown that the longer an injured worker remains away from the workplace, the higher the cost will be to both the employer and the employee.

Additional costs beyond the initial medical expenses may include decreased morale, lost productivity, increased premiums, overtime, or even the cost of recruiting and training a new employee if the employee needs to be replaced. When an employee is injured on the job, it should be everyone’s first concern to ensure that the worker gets immediate treatment.  Thereafter, the next concern is ensuring a successful and speedy recovery for the employee.

What is a Return to Work Program?

A Return to Work program allows employees who are not able to perform their usual job duties due to a work-related illness or injury to go back to work in a temporary, limited or light duty capacity while recovering. This modified work should meet physician prescribed restrictions to avoid re-injury.  Injured workers may be brought back to work in their current positions with physical modifications or they may be placed in alternate transitional positions until they get better and return to full capacity.

Implementing a Return to Work program can greatly aid the recovery process of an employee and save money for the employer. It also provides a way for the injured employee to earn their regular wages. When a RTW program is well implemented, it is a win-win for both the injured employee and employer. The longer an employee is out of work due to injury, the less likely they are to return to work and the more expensive the Workers’ Compensation claim may be.

A RTW Program Can Enhance Employee Recovery

Apart from the financial benefits that a Return to Work program offers injured employees, they also stand to benefit in other ways:

  • It quickens the employee recovery process by fostering feelings of productivity and inclusion even while injured. Studies have shown that a positive mental state speeds up the recovery process for many types of injuries.
  • It avoids thoughts and feelings of frustration and/or uselessness that stem from staying home and not working. Negative feelings can hinder or delay the healing process.
  • Injured workers do not need to use their sick pay benefits or other disability benefits to make up the difference in wages, which can then be saved for other uses.
  • It helps to alleviate concerns about the possible loss of the job
  • It alleviates the feelings of dependency on an unfamiliar system and lack of control
  • It fosters social contact and support from friends and co-workers
  • It helps to maintain dignity and self-worth by remaining productive
  • Employees can focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities
  • It helps to minimize the loss of physical fitness and muscle tone resulting from inactivity

Workplace illnesses, injuries, and accidents are costly to both employees and employers. Although the prevention of injuries is the best approach to protect employees and control Workers’ Compensation costs, employers and employees need a reliable way to manage work-related injuries when they occur. An effective Return to Work program helps to provide injured employees with a quick return to productive employment.