Benefits of Early Return to Work Programs

Workers compensation is a valuable benefit for society’s working men and women; however, few consider the potential non-physical repercussions of an employee put on temporary disability leave. The psychological impact of becoming a “disabled” employee is profound, even if temporary. There is even the possibility of a strained relationship between the employee and employer to consider, and also the related financial consequences for both parties. These strains can easily be avoided.

Managing employees’ quick and safe return when appropriate is in the best interest of both employees and the employer because:

  • For the most common claims, the workers compensation system tends to prolong disability and increase costs.
  • Injured employees who are out of work for a period of time longer than six months have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to their job; for those who spend more than a year away from work, the rate of return drops below 10 percent.
  • Managing the transition back to work for the injured employee is the humane answer to a key failure of the workers compensation system.

Successful companies learn to control their health and disability costs with tools that restore autonomy to the injured employee and provide accountability measures for everyone. Getting your injured employees “off the couch” and teaching them how to take charge of their treatment plan should be a top priority. One of these sophisticated tools is the early Return-to-Work program administered by Proof Positive Consulting. After being initiated in 2004 during what many considered a “work comp crisis”, one of our client facilities was able to reduce their injury rates significantly in a very short period of time….even going 4 years without an OSHA Recordable claim and since maintaining the “goal” of acceptable standards.  It truly has been a Team effort at this California-based manufacturing facility, paired with an effective management team, corporate oversight and support, and a workforce that was willing to make changes, the Health and Wellness Room Program has helped them increase health & safety awareness both in the workplace and at home…..and maybe even contributing to a change in the attitudes and culture of their workforce as well.

The “Health and Wellness Room” Program has proven to:

  • Enhance the physical and psychological recovery process for the injured worker.
  • Reduce medical, disability, and lost time costs.
  • Reduce indirect accident costs.
  • Increase awareness of ergonomic risks and help to eliminate them.
  • Minimize the chance of re-injury with “post-injury” monitoring.
  • Encourage cooperation between employees and management.
  • Play a crucial role in the establishment of a more stable workforce.
  • Provide a trusted “outlet” for employees to seek guidance.
  • Enhance the injured employee’s sense of confidence and well-being.
  • Reduce OSHA Recordable claims.

7 Disincentives for Employees to Return to Work and How You Can Avoid Them

The following is a list of 7 possible ways that an employee can make just as much (or more) money while they are injured than they would make if they were not injured.

1) Double Dipping – Employees may receive funds from both workers’ compensation and disability insurance if their injury is one that puts them out of work for a long period of time.

2) Unemployment – In some states, employees who are receiving workers’ compensation may also qualify for unemployment under certain circumstances. Companies should offer all injured employees a transitional job which they can perform while they are injured. If the employee turns down the transitional job, they will most likely not be granted unemployment status.

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Are Work Comp Costs Really a Big Deal?

The system that was designed to provide medical care and wage replacement for workers who suffer work-related injuries or illness is straining to sustain itself. Rising claim costs and non-regulated reinsurance are contributing factors to the rising costs of work comp.

Today, workers’ comp accounts for one of the fastest growing labor costs. Premiums for workers’ comp have risen 50% nationwide in the last three years – the fastest pace in a decade according to the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute. It really is simple math when every year costs double due to too many claims lasting longer than expected. Some businesses are finding themselves being hit with back-to-back increases of 25% and 40%, even if these businesses are favorable in workplace accident rates. As a business, there is no way to budget for a 20% increase that turns out to be twice that number.

Workers’ Compensation costs have had an enormous impact on several businesses’ bottom line. Accidents simply cost money – not only through direct costs, such as medical and compensation expenses, but in employee morale and client respect as well. Indirect costs are hard to calculate, but if lost, these items can cost your business several times more than direct expenses.

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Showing Compassion for Employees on Disability Can Reduce Work Comp Costs

What happens when an employee gets injured while on the job and goes on temporary disability? They can’t come into work anymore and are forced to sit at home, or they’re in the hospital with almost no contact from anyone at work. In many cases, the only work-related person who they get to talk to is the claim adjuster. They become cut-off from their peers and supervisors.

Sadly, this kind of treatment often leads the employee to feel lost, scared, abandoned, and perhaps even angry. They begin to feel as if they are not wanted around and that their company doesn’t really care about them at all. In many cases, the result of such thinking will end up leading to attorney’s becoming involved and the employee ends up being out for far longer than would otherwise be necessary. This situation is neither beneficial to the company or the employee and most employees would rather it not come to that but feel that they have no other option.

Preventing this from happening can be very simple. All it takes is a simple phone call about once a week to follow up with the injured employee and ask how they are doing. They will be glad to hear from someone from work other than the claim adjuster and it is a good way to monitor the employee’s progress. Sometimes, the information that an employee reveals through conversation can help to better understand the notes from their doctor. A small gift such as flowers or a “get well soon” card is another nice gesture that may be extended to go that extra mile and really make the injured employee feel reassured that they are cared for and eager to return to work.

Cutting Work Time Loss can Save You Money!

One of the biggest causes of work comp costs is a lengthy time loss of work from a disability. If an employee was injured on Jan. 1st, and healed by Jan. 15th, then the employee should return to work on Jan. 15th – not June 15th or July 15th! Keeping your employees recovery time proportionate to the actual length of medical disability will help you save money.

There are several ways protect yourself from unnecessary work comp costs. Create or adopt a Transitional Duty Policy that requires participation when an employee is injured. Communicate this program to your workforce in a positive way so that it becomes part of the corporate culture. Creating a culture that promotes a safe environment improves confidence and awareness for your employees. Establish a goal to bring back injured workers faster. Develop a Health and Wellness Room program to help aid with transitional duty and safety re-education. Communicate with your Health and Wellness Room to talk about progress and obstacles that are preventing the injured employee from returning to work.

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Believe in Your Employees and Create a Safer Workplace

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe in your employees? Do you believe that every job assignment makes a company flow and is just as important as the next? Do you believe that if any employee is injured, it affects the entire company? Take time to think that if any one of your employees was injured, who could pick up the slack to keep your business on course? If you are an employer who believes in your employees, then you are already on the right track to creating a safer workplace.

Returning an injured worker back to the assembly line is just as important as returning the CEO to his or her desk. Whether it is a repetitive strain injury such as carpal tunnel, an ergonomic issue such as neck or back strain, or even a fracture from a traumatic injury; recovery and return to pre-injury employment is the most important and mutual goal.

Action should be taken to assist with the needs for your injured worker. Your injured employee needs to have a plan for the beginning, middle and end of his or her recovery. With graduating work, programs like work hardening, and safety classes your workplace can have the chance to prevent future injuries as well.

Contact Proof:Positive for more information about preventing future workplace injuries, and assisting those who have already been injured.

Economy Down…Workers’ Compensation Claims Down…Time to Catch Up

A large staffing firm has watched workers’ compensation claims plummet in lock-step with the stock market. Has your claim frequency decreased? Maybe the decrease in claims has occurred because production has slowed. Or, maybe folks with minor strains are afraid to rock the boat by filing a claim. This particular staffing firm has seen a much greater decrease in the number of minor claims, which might support the latter hypothesis.

Whatever the cause, employers have a good opportunity to review their safety programs. Instead of running down information for a claim adjuster, we can add value by making sure the programs are up-to-date with current regulations and current operations.

Safety programs are more than binders. They must be living documents that continuously support production activities in a proactive organization.

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Are You on Top of Your Injured Worker’s Progress?

The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” seems to be the perfect phrase to sum up most workers’ compensation claims. Malingering claims seem to develop when you lose contact with an injured employee. Not following up or tracking their progress can cost companies considerable amounts of money.

Health and Wellness Rooms can help keep you in the loop with that injured employee. Constant tracking of their restrictions allows you to see if your injured employee is improving or worsening. When they are at home, they are most likely not following their plan for rehabilitation. Utilizing the Health and Wellness Room allows you to get firsthand knowledge on their restrictions and any changes that may occur. The Health and Wellness Room can help motivate your injured worker to follow through with their therapy and exercise. Keeping structure for the employee helps them stay on track with their recovery.

Another benefit of keeping in touch and following each case is that it allows you to track the progress from the doctor or clinic that you have chosen for your work comp clinic. Let’s face it, some doctors are just not on the same page as you. Getting the injured worker back to work, or referred out to a specialist, may not be a priority for that doctor.

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Positive Environment Helps Foster Healing!

Do your employees view their glass as half-empty or half-full? Your answer may reflect their outlook on life. Does their attitude show them to be optimistic or pessimistic? Positive thinking helps with stress management and can improve their health. There have even been studies done that show the power of positive thinking and how it can affect how long, and how well, they live.

An injured worker is the best candidate to get started down the path of positive thinking. It all begins with how a workplace injury is handled. Do you show concern for your employee’s health and well being after an accident? Do you evaluate the area where the employee was injured? Do you send them off to see the doctor in a timely matter? These areas set the tone for an injured employee to start developing a positive attitude. Dealing with an injury is hard enough! Help the employee understand the process, and what will be happening over the period of healing. This also confirms other employees’ perception of your company to be one that is concerned about their health.

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Can I Fire an Injured Employee?

An employee hurts themselves at work resulting in a worker’s compensation arrangement. You have multiple write ups for this individual, but now they are at home. Have you been unable to contact the individual? Is this employee’s position at the job site now on hold? Were you already planning to fire him before the injury occurred? If any of these questions sound familiar you may want to ask, “Can I fire this employee even though they have filed a worker’s compensation claim?” The answer may be YES.

However…proof of business necessity needs to be established. Factors to determine business necessity include (source: reish.com): More…

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