Light-duty can help reduce workers' compensation claim costs
After an employee is injured on the job, recuperation times can vary, but every day they are away from work, the claim cost increases and productivity suffers.
Recent research shows that employers lose about 80 million work days annually due to workplace injuries or illnesses. The number of employees who remain away from work more than seven days because of injuries or illnesses stretches into the millions.
This means that employers are left to deal with the high cost of workers' compensation premiums, lost productivity and disability benefits. But, by creating a special incentive program, you can greatly reduce these costs.
When an injured worker is off work healing, a physician will regularly examine them. These exams will in part determine whether the worker is ready to return to their previous tasks.
In some cases, it may be possible to get the individual back to work sooner with light duties.
For example, consider a worker who is injured while lifting boxes in a warehouse. The attending physician will be examining the employee to determine whether he or she is ready to lift boxes again.
If the employee has a back injury, it could be several weeks before they can return to work.
But, if the employer offered the worker an easy temporary job in the office, they may be able to return much sooner. To make something like this happen, a light-duty program must be put in place. A solid program should have the following features:
- Addresses environmental, physical, knowledge and emotional factors that may prevent employees from returning to work.
- Makes the transition to full-time work easier.
- Focuses on employees' abilities instead of their disabilities.
Light-duty programs improve employee morale by increasing incentives for returning to work and staying safe. For the employer, they maintain productivity by lowering the number of lost work days.
These programs help speed up employees' recovery processes. Recent research shows that 50% of workers who stay out of work for more than six months will never return to their jobs. If they stay out for more than one year, the likelihood of returning to work is about 10%.
Getting employees back to work as quickly as possible is the best way to bring about feelings of being part of the team. It also lessens the financial impact on the employee and their family.
The elements of a solid plan
To make sure a program is as comprehensive as possible, include the following elements:
- Performing meaningful tasks instead of simple busy work.
- Coordination with the doctor about work restrictions.
- Alternative work assignments that benefit the employer and employee.
- Descriptions of duties the injured employee must perform.
- Provisions for situations where employees may have to take additional medical leave time after returning to work.
- Stated conditions and time parameters for temporary assignments.
Benefits of return-to-work programs
- Making it easier to keep valuable employees, who are productive while recovering.
- Improved communication.
- Making it difficult for employees to stay out of work longer than necessary.
- Reducing the need to recruit, hire and train new workers.
- Reducing the cost of workers’ compensation disability payments to injured workers.
- Showing your concern for the injured employee’s health.
- Reducing claims costs, which can help reduce your rates.
Workers' compensation consumes a sizable portion of overall personnel costs. A solid return program can reduce those costs, including intangible ones, like the absence of an experienced worker. Also, it helps keep employees happy.