What Is a Return-to-Work (RTW) Policy?
Having a return-to-work policy is important for your business. It can help you save money and spend less effort throughout the workers’ compensation process. A return-to-work policy allows your employees to return to a light-duty job while they recover from a work-related injury or illness. A return-to-work policy is designed to help injured or sick employees get back to work in a safe and timely manner.
A workers’ comp return-to-work policy can provide benefits to your business, including:
- Help controlling the direct and indirect absenteeism costs
- Reducing lost productivity
- Not having to train replacement workers
- Maintaining the skill sets of your valuable employees
A return-to-work (RTW) policy can also be beneficial to injured or sick employees. This includes:
- A quicker recovery
- Reiterating self-worth
- Getting their job back or finding a similar role
- Preventing salary interruption
In order for a RTW policy to work, both you and your employees need to support the program.
Workers’ Compensation Return-to-Work Restrictions
Work restrictions dictate what an employee can and can't do on the job because of their injury. An employee’s treating physician may give them work restrictions after receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Employees follow work restrictions after recovering from an injury or illness.
Employees can receive a monthly benefit check if you can't provide work accommodations. The check represents a portion of what they would have earned if they were able to do the full-duty work.
Workers’ Comp Settlement After Returning to Work
Working during recovery can increase your employee’s morale. It also allows them to continue receiving a salary.
An employee’s workers’ comp settlement is dependent on their ability to return to work. If an employee doesn’t return to their job, they may not receive their weekly benefit check. They may, however, be able to receive Social Security Disability Insurance. They may also need to find a new job if their injury or illness prevents them from doing their former position.
It’s important for your employee to maintain open communication with you and their doctor. Employees should be telling you and their doctor if certain tasks are painful. They should also tell you about medical appointments and outcomes.
How to Get Started in Developing a RTW Program
Your return-to-work policy should reflect your business’s commitment to helping employees get back to work after an injury or illness. This shows your employees that you’re serious and dedicated to your team’s health and well-being. Your employees will also know there are traditional work options if they get sick or injured.
When developing your return-to-work program, your policy should have clear guidelines on:
- Entrance and exit criteria
- Transitional job positions
The policy should also outline how to handle a situation involving a sick or injured worker. It should also detail the difference between a personal injury and workers’ comp claim since they aren’t the same. Because of this, a person that files a personal injury suit isn’t eligible for the return-to-work program.
Establish a Return-to-Work Team
A return-to-work team is an important first step in taking control of an employee’s injury or illness. A return-to-work team should include:
- An employee representative
- Supervisors or managers
- Human resources staff
- Occupational health staff
- Occupational safety staff
- A union representative
- Insurance representatives who work in medical case management, vocational rehabilitation, risk management and claims
- Representatives from health care vendors
Identify Job Opportunities for Employees Returning to Work
Consider reviewing current jobs to determine which ones could be suitable for transitional work. If needed, change the job descriptions.
An important part of this process is including your employees. Reach out to them and ask for their suggestions to identify transitional work. They can help you identify the different jobs that may be suitable for transitional work.
While you’re developing the RTW policy, open communication is key. You’ll want to make sure your employees understand the policy and what is expected by the business. Your return-to-work policy should also be communicated to health care providers. Sharing them with the employees and health care providers gives them the opportunity for input. They can also let you know about what accommodations would be appropriate.
Your policy should stress to employees that injuries or illnesses should be promptly reported. Managers should also be trained on how to file a workers’ compensation claim with the insurance company.
Employees Returning to Work
Your RTW program’s success depends on your communication with employees, medical providers and insurance carriers.
If a work-related incident occurs, here are the steps to take:
- Ensure your employee reports the incident so they can receive appropriate treatment. Early reporting and intervention are critical to managing these instances effectively.
- Investigate the incident.
- Determine probable cause. Note the cause and try to find a viable solution to avoid another accident.
- Depending on your needs, consider engaging a safety and risk management services provider.
Bringing a sick or injured employee with a partial disability into well-defined transitional work can be beneficial to both you and your employee. Accommodating workers with injuries aligns with the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accommodations for employees can include:
- Modifying the work area
- Restructuring or reassigning job tasks
- Providing short-term retraining to perform new, but temporary work assignments
- Providing adaptive equipment that offers the employee increased comfort or ease in work duties
- Offering work schedule or work location flexibility
Learn More About Workers’ Comp From The Hartford
The Hartford is available to answer questions about workman’s comp, return-to-work policies and much more.
Contact one of our specialists at 1-855-829-1683. Our team is here and ready to help you and your business. Get a quote today.
This article provides general information, and should not be construed as specific legal, HR, financial, insurance, tax or accounting advice. As with all matters of a legal or human resources nature, you should consult with your own legal counsel and human resources professionals. The Hartford shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, punitive or exemplary damages in connection with the use by you or anyone of the information provided herein.