This article was written by Justin Rowley, VP of Risk Management at Helpside.

Carefully considered return to work programs can significantly benefit both employers and injured employees by reducing disability leave costs and maintaining the productivity of the injured employee. Employers are often challenged with how to bring their injured workers back to work on modified duty when an industrial accident occurs. Here are a few tips on building an effective return to work program:

Proactive Program Development

By developing a formal return to work program for your company before an injury occurs, you clearly define what is important to your company culture. These return to work goals are created through the established policies and procedures are then are communicated to employees on a regular basis.

Identify Light Duty Assignments

It’s important that companies identify possible modified duty work assignments that meet multiple types of restrictions before injuries occur. Once an injury happens, you can then refer to theses work assignments and identify the one that best fit the circumstances, based on the work restrictions provided by the doctors treating the injured employee. It’s important to explain to the injured employee that this new transitional position is temporary and once they are cleared to return to full duty, they are expected to return to the position for which they were hired.

Volunteer Return to Work Programs

At times, some companies cannot comply with modified duty restrictions for their injured employees.  This may because the company is in a heavy labor industry or may be due to the size of the company.  In this instance, it is possible to create a volunteer return to work program.  A volunteer return to work program may be set up by your workers’ compensation insurance carrier, third-party administrator, or your internal workers compensation director.

This program is set up by coordinating with local nonprofit organizations and volunteer sites. These nonprofit organizations allow the injured employee to work the recommended hours while staying within their prescribed restrictions. Once the injured employee has completed his work day or week, the hours worked are turned into the employer and the employer then pays the injured employees’ wages.

Participating in a volunteer return to work program, employers are helping to decrease claims costs by limiting or eliminating lost time wages paid through the workers’ compensation carrier. These programs have also been shown to help injured employees recover faster and keep injured employees in the routine of working so they can maintain working relationships.

The costs associated with disability due to a work-related injury can be expensive. An employer can manage these cost by taking proactive measures through the implementation of a return to work program. A return to work program creates a work environment where employees feel valued for their contributions to the company while recovering from their injuries. Helpside can help our clients create and implement a return to work program. For additional information please contact Justin Rowley,