If done well a return to work program can benefit both the employer and employees.
Returning to work can be a hassle for employees to navigate. Anything an employer can do to make the process easier for their employees will benefit the employee as well as the company in the long term. That process should start before the injury occurs by putting an emphasis on safety in order to prevent the injury from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, if you are in business long enough an injury to one of your employees will inevitably occur. When it does, helping your employee get the medical care they need and helping them get back on the job promptly can be crucial to the success of your business. Here are 4 ways an effective return to work program can help your business succeed.
Put your return to work policy down in writing: Why putting this program in writing is that the process of putting this policy in writing can help you determine what are the issues that employees actually face when they are dealing with injuries and how to best help them through this process. You should have some key employees from all levels of your business be a part of this process. Maybe even include someone who recently had an injury at work. These in-sites may help you determine some risks your business faces that you may be able to prevent future injuries.
Develop a process for Communication throughout the process: Once you have a return-to-work program in place you need to ensure all of your managers read and understand the policy clearly and concisely. It may be effective to have one person be the point person for the program, but it is equally important to have them train all the other managers and upper level employees about the program. This is important you do not want to be left in a bind if that person is on vacation when an injury occurs or if that employee leaves the organization altogether. Make sure your employees understand how this program impacts the bottom line. Helping them communicate this program down through the ranks via meetings, email and your intranet.
Start the plan immediately upon injury/illness: The moment an injury occurs the return to work program needs to be implemented. This should be outlined clearly in the program. Documenting everything is crucial to protect the business and to ensure the employee gets the proper medical attention and wage reimbursement through your workers’ compensation insurance policy. The quicker you implement this program it will instill confidence in the injured employee that you care about their well-being and will contribute to them wanting to get back to work more quickly.
Close your claims quickly: Once your employee is recovered and back on the job, it is important to close the workers’ compensation claim quickly. Carriers will leave the claim open for a while after the employee returning to work. They do this to make sure the employee does not reinjure themselves upon returning to work and needing additional benefits. Remember that the underwriter may leave this claim open and it can cause your loss cost ratio to be much higher than it actually is. If you are renewing your policy this can negatively impact what you pay for premium. For this reason it is important to periodically check in to make sure the claim is closed as soon as it possibly can.
- Quickly report all claims to the insurer.
Some states have requirements for how quickly a workers compensation claim must be reported. Insurance carriers have specific departments that deal with claims exclusively. They will know the process thoroughly for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Because this is a process your business hopefully does not deal with frequently, getting your injured worker the proper coverage quickly will be easier with the help of your carrier. Documenting the claims allows the carriers to pick up on patterns and help businesses develop programs to prevent common injuries.
- Make sure supervisors are adequately trained.
Taking care of an injured employee may not be at the top of the priority list when hiring a manager for your business. Hopefully it is not something your managers have to encounter very frequently, but it needs to be something they can effectively deal with for the success of your business. Many businesses have a point person who studies the workers compensation claim process thoroughly. It is still important to have this person train the other managers to be aware of this process in case of an incident occurring when they are not on duty or away on vacation.
- Keep complete notes of the injury and reporting process.
Note taking is crucial in everything you do within your business. This is especially important when you experience a workers compensation insurance claim. It may seem tedious, but it can save your business immensely if a claim makes it into the court of law. Besides the fact you need to cover your business legally, accurate documentation helps your carrier document injuries within your industry. They can use this information to see patterns and to determine appropriate safety programs to deal with those patterns.
- Communication is key.
Communicating with all parties involved in the workers compensation claim is extremely important. This starts with communicating with your employee. In most states they have the right to seek a second opinion, but the more you keep your carrier in the loop of these situations the better they can help you control the cost of the claim. Separate from the cost of the claim, it is in your best interest to let your injured employee know you care about their well-being. Communicating with both your insurance agent and carrier is important as well. The carrier is the one equipped to handle the claim, not your agent. The agent can be helpful if you feel your carrier is not living up to your expectations. Keeping them updated on the workers compensation claim can help you ensure you are getting the proper attention from your carrier and they can help you prepare for explaining the claim when you go to renew your policy.
- Prevent employees from injuries.
Safety programs are key to the long term success of your business. Making a safety plan part of your ongoing training is essential to your business and it does not have to take a lot of time. Fifteen minute discussions two or three times a month should be sufficient. Make sure the meetings have a specific topic and ask for feedback from your employees. Asking for their feedback gets them involved in the discussion. This will make them more involved in the program. It can lead to higher job satisfaction if those employees feel like you are listening and make changes based on their feedback.
- Create a return to work program.
Studies have shown that the quicker a person gets back on the job in any form or fashion, the more likely they are to return to permanent work. Humans are creatures of habit. Coming to work is part of their habit and the longer they go without that habit the more likely they are to create new habits not associated with your business. This is when a claim can get out of control if an injured employee goes on long term or permanent disability. Designing low impact work of some kind will allow those employees to return to work and get back in the routine of work quicker.