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Checklist: Essential elements of a successful Return-to-Work program

Return-to-Work programs provide employers with the opportunity to significantly reduce Workers’ Compensation costs. Having a program in place is simply not enough, the program needs to be consistently evaluated and refined. It is as important to manage the case after the injured employee returns to work, as it is to have the employee return to work.

Here is a checklist to get the most benefit from your return to work program:
Involvement of employees in the development and implementation of the program as well as in determining their own return to work activities following an injury

Continuous education and dissemination of information about the Return-to-Work program beginning before injuries occur

Proper training of and commitment to the program by all managers and supervisors

A designated program coordinator to coordinate the early Return-to-Work program, monitor assignments, be responsible for workers’ compensation reporting and required record keeping, and communications with the treating physician and injured worker

Incident reporting within 24 hours

Prompt and appropriate medical care following an injury

Return-to-Work information package for treating physicians to help understand the employee’s regular job, the Return-to-Work program, and available alternative assignments

Encourage health care providers to visit operations

Continuous, supportive communication with injured worker while off work

Continuous communication with the treating physician and insurance carrier to clarify diagnosis and to encourage recovery and return to work

Designate meaningful jobs for transitional duty and modify work schedules, if needed

Rigorous process to offer alternative work assignments, including return to work authorization form, letter of bona fide offer of employment, offer of employment agreement, meeting with injured employee

Communication of employee’s restrictions to supervisor and steps to ensure that the employee does not exceed the restrictions

Policy and consistent implementation of what to do when employee refuses a transitional work assignment

Monitoring the injured worker’s progress and work assignments following return to work throughout the transition back to regular work

Continued communication with the treating physician to ensure that the injured worker is progressing and on track to return to full capacity in the expected time frame

Periodic evaluation of the program. Document, track and monitor results including reporting time frames, lost days, days on transitional duty as well as accident and injury history

Compliance with ADA and FMLA, the State Workers’ Compensation Act, and any other state or federal law that might apply

Consistent application of the program with a continual emphasis on safety and prevention