Risk Insider: Barry Vogt

Nonprofit Return to Work Programs: An Easy Way to Get Injured Workers Moving Again

By: | October 8, 2018

Barry J. Vogt, senior vice president and chief claims officer of EMPLOYERS, is responsible for claims strategy, medical management/managed care strategy, catastrophic claim management, fraud investigations, claim controls, regulatory compliance and subrogation.

How to get injured workers back on their feet and productive following a workplace injury is a perennial challenge, especially for small business owners.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 1 million people who were non-fatally injured or sick in 2016 experienced days away from work. The average employee missed eight days per injury. Those kinds of unplanned staffing shortages can leave any business in a lurch but are particularly painful for businesses with fewer employees available to pick up the slack.

Return to work programs have long been recognized for their effectiveness at transitioning recovering employees back into the workforce. In this type of arrangement, employees temporarily perform modified or “light duty” versions of their normal jobs. Sometimes they may perform completely different job functions until they have recovered enough to perform their typical duties.

There are both physical and psychological benefits of return to work programs. By getting workers active within their physical limitations, the healing process can be accelerated. Workers experience less stress and anguish, because they get back to having a steady paycheck and sense of job security. Even if their job function changes temporarily or permanently, having an injured employee back in the workplace often boosts morale across the business.

Return to work programs have long been recognized for their effectiveness at transitioning recovering employees back into the workforce. In this type of arrangement, employees temporarily perform modified or “light duty” versions of their normal jobs.

A return-to-work cost/benefit analysis authored by the New York Department of Labor cites that employees recover from injuries three-times faster when they are on the job and claim costs are reduced by up to 70 percent.

The study went on to state that long-term disability has devastating psychological, medical, social and economic effects on injured workers. Among the benefits of a structured return-to-work program are a reduction in the frequency and length of disability, medical and indemnity costs, litigation, worker replacement costs and productivity losses.

Benefits of Nonprofit Return to Work Programs

Unfortunately, many businesses are not able to provide injured employees with alternative work arrangements. That’s where a nonprofit organization or local charity can help. They are often in need of volunteers to perform a range of tasks and can work with the employer, returning employee and medical care providers to structure a role that is physically appropriate.

The nonprofit organization or charity assumes the responsibility for training and supervising the employee for transitional duty, which provides some relief to the employer. Employees remain productive, reduce the number of days they miss work and have an avenue for earning their regular income and benefits until they fully recover while providing a service to the community.

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While there are no exact guidelines for developing charity-based return-to-work programs, they are often structured like traditional return-to-work programs.

For example, EMPLOYERS’ Off-Site Transitional Duty Program accesses a third-party’s national network of over 1.5 million nonprofit host employers to provide injured employees with meaningful and productive light duty work. The host employer is selected based on location and ability to accommodate the injured worker’s restrictions. Employers can stay in contact with employees through weekly communications and electronic timecard tracking.

Even in the safest workplaces, injuries and illnesses may still occur. Return-to-work programs can help recovering employees get back on their feet and to full productivity faster, which favorably impacts the total costs of a workers’ compensation insurance claim.

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