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Intelligent Strategies to Support Return-to-Work Endeavors Highlighted at National Council of Self-Insurers Conference

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Denver, CO (WorkersCompensation.com) -- The 2023 National Council of Self-Insurers 76th Annual Meeting & Conference brought together industry experts for a panel discussion on "Intelligent Strategies to Support Return-to-Work Endeavors." Held at The Grand Hyatt in Denver on June 5, 2023, the session delved into the significance of return-to-work programs in worker's compensation. It provided insights and strategies to reintegrate injured employees into the workforce successfully.

The panelists, including Natalie Torres from PriMedical, Inc., Rosie Alvarez from Netflix, Dr. Claire Muselman, and Jason Kolecke from Hennessy & Roach, P.C., shared their expertise and shed light on various aspects of return-to-work initiatives, highlighting their role in supporting injured workers and employers throughout the process.

Returning to work after a work-related injury holds tremendous importance for the employee's physical, emotional, and financial recovery, as well as the operational and financial stability of the employer. The panelists underscored several important reasons why employers should give return-to-work endeavors the utmost priority:

(1) Employee Well-being: Returning to work plays a pivotal role in promoting the physical and psychological well-being of the injured worker. It helps them regain a sense of normalcy, maintain their skills, and rebuild their confidence and self-esteem. By actively engaging in meaningful work, injured workers experience a positive impact on their overall well-being and quality of life.

(2) Financial Stability: Returning to work allows the injured worker to resume earning an income, thereby reducing the financial strain caused by being out of work. It helps them support themselves and their families, improving their financial stability and preventing the long-term negative consequences of prolonged unemployment.

(3) Workplace Productivity: Employers reap the benefits of having their skilled employees back on the job. Employers ensure the continuity of their business operations and maintain productivity by facilitating a timely return to work. In addition, having experienced workers on the team reduces the costs of hiring and training new employees.

(4) Reduced Workers' Compensation Costs: A successful return-to-work program can significantly contribute to lowering workers' compensation costs for employers. By proactively assisting the injured worker's return, the duration and severity of the claim can be minimized, leading to reduced medical expenses, indemnity payments, and ultimately lower insurance premiums over time.

(5) Positive Work Environment: Encouraging a culture that supports the return to work fosters a positive work environment within organizations. It demonstrates the employer's commitment to the well-being of their employees and establishes a sense of trust and loyalty. Such a supportive work culture can profoundly impact employee morale, motivation, and overall satisfaction.

During the engaging panel discussion, each expert shared valuable insights and strategies related to different stages of the return-to-work process. They explored the challenges and concerns that arise immediately after a work-related accident and the steps employers should take to ensure the injured worker receives prompt attention and necessary support.

Dr. Claire Muselman shed light on the petitioner's state of mind at the time of the accident, discussing their initial thoughts and concerns. Rosie Alvarez highlighted the crucial steps employers must take when an accident occurs and how they should address the issue of returning to work from the outset. Natalie Torres emphasized how her services could assist employers during the early stages of an accident, providing guidance and advice.

The discussion also focused on involving case management or return-to-work companies in managing the process and facilitating a smooth transition for injured workers. These companies play a vital role by conducting initial assessments, coordinating with medical providers, developing customized return-to-work plans, facilitating communication and collaboration, offering advocacy and support, and monitoring the worker's progress while making necessary adjustments.

Jason Kolecke delved into the circumstances under which employers should seek legal advice after an accident, highlighting the importance of legal representation from the initial stages of the injury. He discussed the benefits of involving an attorney, mainly when complexities or potential legal implications are involved in the case.

The panelists also addressed the challenges and concerns that arise when injured workers are provided with restrictions that prevent them from returning to full-duty work. Dr. Claire Muselman shared insights into the petitioner's state of mind when they are informed they cannot return to work full-duty and are provided with restrictions. Rosie Alvarez outlined the steps employers should take when they are told that an employee has been given restrictions and how to address the issue of return to work in such cases.

Natalie Torres emphasized how her services can assist in the return-to-work process by providing job modifications or accommodations, rehabilitation services, vocational training or retraining, case management and support, counseling, psychological assistance, and education and training.

Furthermore, the panelists addressed the legal obligations and requirements for accommodating off-site work restrictions, considering scenarios where restrictions cannot be accommodated on-site by the employer. Dr. Claire Muselman provided insights into employees' questions and concerns when they cannot return to work with the employer and at the employer's location.

Rosie Alvarez discussed the questions and concerns that arise when employers cannot accommodate restrictions on-site and outlined the protocol for accommodating off-site work. Natalie Torres shared ways to assist employers when accommodations cannot be made on-site and the steps taken to support the employer while protecting the employee's rights and interests.

Jason Kolecke delved into the legal requirements for accommodating off-site work restrictions, highlighting the importance of adhering to the law. He also addressed ways to prevent resistance from employee legal counsel and foster a collaborative approach to the return-to-work process.

As the panel discussion concluded, the experts emphasized the benefits of focusing on a return to work in workers' compensation claims, particularly in terms of successful litigation. By emphasizing a return to work, employers demonstrate their reasonable faith efforts, mitigate potential damages, strengthen their position in litigation, reduce costs, facilitate settlement negotiations, and foster positive relationships between employers and injured workers.

The insights and strategies shared during the session gave attendees a comprehensive understanding of the significance of return-to-work programs and practical approaches to implementing intelligent strategies that benefit injured workers and employers. The panel discussion underscored the importance of prioritizing return-to-work initiatives and their positive impact on worker well-being, employer stability, and successful litigation outcomes in workers' compensation.

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