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Cost Savings Through Return To Work Programs

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June 23, 2005

This is the first in a two part series on experiencing cost savings by implementing an effective return-to-work (RTW) system. This first part will explain the benefits. Part two will look at some of the mechanics.

Looking for ways to lower work comp costs? One way you, as an employer, can substantially reduce your workers compensation costs is by establishing an early return to work program.

Employer vigilance in ensuring compliance with employment laws, specifically the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) will be imperative as a safeguard from potential litigation and exorbitant legal costs.

Industry experts agree that the greatest cost savings measures in workers compensation are:

Workplace Safety,
Injury Prevention, and
Early Return To Work Programs.

Benefits For Employers

Every employer, regardless of size, can substantially benefit from a return to work program. Some of the advantages:

  • Controlling and reducing workers compensation insurance premiums
  • Decreased medical costs by employees
  • Higher employee morale and lower absenteeism
  • Decrease in replacement labor costs
  • Why Do I Need a Return-to-Work Program?

Employers can benefit by investing in developing a good return-to-work program to help control workers' comp costs. This begins with creating a system to deal with lost time injuries and the identification of appropriate work alternatives. Many employers are overwhelmed in dealing with the day-to-day functions of their business that they often do not have adequate resources to identify alternatives until an individual is off work for a prolonged period of time due to injury or illness.

Prevention and preparation: your keys to a successful return to work program.

Bringing an injured worker back to the workplace in a modified or alternative position is vital to reducing claim costs.

Positive impacts include:

  • Reduced costs for temporary disability (TD).
  • Lower medical expenses.
  • Shortened claim duration.

It is important to work in a team effort with your employee and the treating physician, with a goal of returning the employee to suitable work in a timely fashion. By determining the functional capabilities of the injured employee, an appropriately modified or alternative position can be identified and can dramatically expedite the medical recovery process.

Enlisting the expertise of a return to work consultant who can serve as an objective and non-threatening party, can effectively facilitate and greatly enhance communication in your workplace through an Interactive Process Meeting. Oftentimes, employees are more apt to discuss their ideas and concerns with someone there to assist in fostering a productive discussion.

It is important for the injured worker to maintain their social, physical, and emotional ties to the workplace. When offered a modified or alternative position, it is the employee's responsibility to return to work. As the employee's capabilities improve, the job should change with a return to regular duties when released by the treating physician.

Familiarity with the concept of identifying essential and nonessential work tasks through development of job descriptions or by obtaining a job analysis has become even more, important. Through an Interactive Process Meeting, you can coordinate this effort with the employee to discuss reasonable accommodation in relationship to their job tasks.

Your employee may have great suggestions for how they can more effectively perform their job duties, in a safer, smarter manner.

Jamie Charter has been providing vocational and litigation consulting services for 21 years through Charter and Company in Soquel, California. Jamie is also one of the principals of the Employer Resource Consultants, a network providing proactive compliance solutions to employers. Jamie is a member of the Forensics and Disability Management Chapters of IARP, is the media specialist for the Forensics section of CARRP, the Santa Cruz Bar Association, the NCHRA, COSIPA and the Employer Advisory Council. Jamie is Certified as a Professional in Disability Management, (CPDM) and is a State of California Independent Vocational Evaluator (IVE). Specialty areas include: Litigation and expert witness services in Forensics, development and implementation of disability management programs, case management, return-to-work facilitation, job analyses, and facilitating and conducting sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training, to promote employer compliance.Jamie is also an accomplished writer and editor, with many published articles regarding employment related issues in wide-reaching media arenas. [email protected]

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