Building Support for Your Workers Comp Transitional Work Program


Although employees in a transitional work program assignment may be less than 100% productive, having an injured employee working part-time in a limited capacity is more cost-effective than having one who does not work at all.

Many companies, however, are reluctant to initiate transitional work programs. Some employers believe worker unions will not accept these programs, or the programs themselves will not be time- or cost-effective.(WCxKit)
But evidence proves transitional work programs can be very cost-effective.
A well-managed transitional work program can result in a return-to-work rate of up to 90% for injured employees returning to the job within four days following the injury.
Significantly shortened workers compensation claims in turn result in lowered indemnity costs as the company's workers compensation loss experiences shows overall improvement.
Convincing Employers
To convince employers of the benefits of transitional work programs, risk managers should point out the key factors supporting their use.
First, the risk manager can demonstrate how the company will realize significant financial savings if a return-to-work program is established.
An employer can expect an average of 30% in savings for workers compensation costs for a well-managed return-to-work program that includes a transitional work program.
To illustrate, consider this example. Suppose for every day an employee is brought back to work in a transitional duty capacity, a company realizes savings of $100 per day. If the employer has 50 workers on lost-time status who return to work in a transitional job assignment capacity one day earlier, the employer would realize savings of $5,000 per day.
At a 5% profit margin, the return-to-work program would save the company $100,000. In other words, it would “cost” the company $100,000 to replace the $5,000 on the company's bottom line if the firm has a 5% profit margin.
The risk manager can also point out how transitional work jobs can be as diverse and creative as the employer chooses.
For example, employers can establish transitional work programs by gathering work “wish lists” from their managers.
These lists could consist of those “to-do” tasks managers would like to accomplish but cannot due to time constraints and other more demanding work priorities.
Perhaps one department needs inventory taken, or another department requires a card filing system or someone to answer telephones. Companies can have recuperating employees perform these tasks, thus helping to boost productivity.
Companies should also attempt to make transitional work positions creative and productive. For example, by drawing from the “wish list,” employers can develop varied activities, thus keeping a recuperating employee gainfully occupied.
Three Types of Transitional Work Programs
Employers can choose from a variety of transitional work programs.
A. The first are alternate or light duty programs.
These allow employees to work at less demanding jobs until they are physically able to resume their original work duties. For example, an employee who normally does physically demanding labor could work in a more sedentary capacity, such as answering telephones or taking product inventories.
B. The second type of transitional work program is the modified duty program.
Here, injured employees original jobs are modified through engineering alterations of the workstation.
Employers use these programs to prevent aggravation of the injury. For example, an employer could install seats with added back supports and foot rests to relieve discomfort for an employee with an injured back.
C. “Work hardening” is the third type of transitional work program.
In these programs, employees perform their usual job-related tasks in steps of increasing difficulty until they regain the physical ability needed to perform their original jobs.
This allows the injured employee to remain at work, although at reduced hours. Sometimes, employees in a work hardening program will be placed in a simulated off-site work environment.
Here, they perform simulated assignments closely approximating the tasks they perform at their real jobs. Many vendors offer these work simulation programs.
During the return-to-work process, companies need to consider the employees physical limitations. If injured workers exceed their physical abilities, they may experience a recurrence of the injury causing unnecessary pain and suffering for the employee and needless additional workers compensation costs for their employers.(WCxKit)
Also, although employers can use transitional work programs for temporary illnesses and injuries, it is important to remember all absence and disability programs must be integrated with the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.  See for more information. Contact: or 860-553-6604.

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

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