Notwithstanding the conventional wisdom, injured workers of any age have an interest in returning to work. Sadly this is often an over-looked part of many programs as employers and interested stakeholders focus on other issues. Now is the time to change this thought process. This is based on the reality that any workers’ compensation program can create a win for everyone by focusing on return-to-work.
Challenges When it Comes to Return-To-Work
There are many challenges employers and other stakeholders face when creating or revamping their return to work program. Due to these barriers, the people in charge of the program decide to move on and focus on other aspects of their programs. Some of the main challenges faced by workers’ compensation programs include:
The aging American workforce. Continued anemic economic growth places pressures on the average American’s pocketbook. This has changed the thought process by employees, as they get older. When an injury occurs, employers and members of the claim management team face challenges of extended vocational rehabilitation, the possibility of retraining and the ugly specter of a permanent total disability (PTD) claim.
The ongoing opioid drug epidemic. Change will only occur in the overuse and abuse of prescription opioid-based medications only when the hearts and minds of Americans demand real action. Until that time, all parties charged with the role of defending a workers’ compensation claim will need to keep an eye on this issue.
Countless other factors impact workers’ compensation claims management. One practical and fundamental solution is to reduce the costs in a workers’ compensation program through an effective and efficient return-to-work program.
Return-To-Work: Creating a Win/Win Mentality
The beauty of an effective return-to-work program is that it reduces the inherent tension within the adversarial workers’ compensation system and creates a win for everyone. While it may take some work, the cost savings are immense.
Creating a Win for Employees
Countless studies demonstrate that an injured work, regardless of age or time spent in the workforce, want to return to work following an injury. When a workers’ compensation program is set up correctly, there is a “win” for the employee.
Productivity: If an employee is able to return-to-work, they remain productive. This leads to a sense of satisfaction for anyone recovering from even a severe workplace injury.
Maintaining a Consistent Work Schedule. There are numerous intangibles associated with a consistent work schedule. Instead of sitting at home while they recover, people who are working, even reduced hours, have a more positive attitude.
Feeling safe allows anyone to be more productive. Safety and security in knowing you have a job results in greater financial and emotional security.
Creating a Win for Employers
A well return-to-work program also creates the sense of a win for employers. This allows the stakeholders on this end of the equation to see value in all employees—regardless of ability or restrictions.
Decreasing Work Comp Exposure. Once and employee demonstrates the ability to return to work, the future exposures in any program dramatically decrease. These savings are found on the indemnity, vocational rehabilitation and medical portions of a claim.
Effective Cost Containment. In addition to decreasing costs, an effective return-to-work will allow the program to better anticipate future expenses and effectively allocate scarce resources.
Employee Retention. Any successful employer retains its employees and reduces the loss of institutional memory from leaving when turnover occurs. Keeping employees on the job following an injury also allows that employer to spend less time and money identifying new talent and recruiting new employees.
Employers seeking to reduce their workers’ compensation program costs need to make an investment in their return-to-work program. It also has numerous benefits that reduces the tension of the workers’ compensation progress and allows for all involved to win.
Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.