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Return-to-Work programs: getting started

An early Return-to-Work program should be simple, realistic, and suitable to the employer’s business needs. Putting the policy and procedures in writing is the first important step.

A written policy statement reinforces the company’s commitment to the program and helps make the expectation of early return to work an integrated part of the company culture. It helps to show that the company values its employees. Written documents provide readily available information helpful in communicating with employees, health care providers and insurance carriers. Having the information in writing ensures that everyone has the same information and helps ensure consistent application of the program.

Policy Statement
Write, adopt, and post a policy statement that is brief and broadly written so that it does not require frequent revision. Post the policy statement in an easily accessible place as a constant reminder and encouragement of early return to work following a work related illness or injury. Include statements that do the following:
• Confirm the company’s commitment to the early Return-to-Work program;
• Explain the company’s Return-to-Work philosophy; and
• Stress the importance of safe operations and prevention of injury.
Procedures and Responsibilities
Write procedures that explain step by step what will happen from the time of an injury until after the injured worker returns to work. Include clearly stated and detailed instructions that identify specific roles and responsibilities. Identify the primary contact person and provide contact information.

Roles, responsibilities, and procedures may vary depending on the program and on other company policies and specific expectations. Provide information such as:
• Who an injured worker should notify in the event of an injury
• What are the procedures for the injured worker to follow
• Who is responsible for completing the Employer’s First Report
• Who is responsible for maintaining contact with the injured worker
• What an injured worker can expect from the insurance carrier, treating doctor, and others
• How and who determines the availability of medically appropriate work assignment
• How the incident is investigated
For samples of policy statements and procedures, please contact us.