Four key components of successful Return-to-Work
1. Modified Duties
Develop a list of modified duties – meaningful work that needs to be done –and keep on file. This should not be done at the time of the injury, but reviewed, modified and added to over time. Supervisors play a key role in developing the list. For example, a construction contractor’s RTW program includes security work, safety inspections, training in the field and inventory control.
2. Supervisor Training
One of the biggest indicators if a claim will go bad is the relationship between the employee and supervisor. Knowing how to treat an injured employee is not as obvious as one might think. Pressures to get the job done when short-staffed can convey a message of anger rather than encouragement. Supervisors must understand that RTW has a positive effect on the bottom line. Successful employers hold supervisors accountable by tying in bonuses and performance reviews.
3. Communication with Employees
Share information about the RTW program with employees at the time of hiring, during staff meetings and throughout the course of employment. Be sure they understand that the goal is to facilitate recovery – RTW is transitional only and not intended to be permanent. When an injured employee returns to work have them sign a return to work agreement. This agreement should clearly delineate the work restrictions that have been specified by the physician and state that the employee is not required, nor expected to perform any tasks beyond those restrictions. Give some idea of how long you expect the employee to be in the position. Establish clear expectations. An analogy many can understand is that of a baseball pitcher. After the injury is treated, he returns to the minor leagues for rehabilitation. There is a clear idea as to the steps he must take to return to the rotation in the major leagues.
4. Work with the treating physician
Doctors tend to trust employers more than they do insurance carriers. Send an introductory letter that provides information to help doctors understand the employee’s regular job, the return to work program, and available alternative assignments. Adopt the approach – “Tell us what they can and cannot do and we will accommodate.” With the exception of the following conditions, an employee should return to work:
• Confined to bed rest
• Medication that impairs the ability to work