When an employee is injured it can have devastating effects on the company. Disability costs are rising across the board, especially now that the workforce is aging. What employers need to be thinking about is their return-to-work programs. Many employers might not even think about this option until it is too late, if at all. Many employers are unsure of how to handle long-term absences or how to accommodate their employees return.
What are some consequences of not implementing an effective return to work?
– Employers may be open to lawsuits from the ADA if they limit the availability of transitional work for injured employees.
– Along those lines, if there is no light-duty option to ease workers back into full time they may develop “disability syndrome” where they become less motivated to return to work even when they are well.
– Employers see more lost time the longer their employees are out of work.
One change employers may want to consider in the workplace before an injury ever occurs is to try and make accommodations to their workplace for their aging workers or their workers with co-morbidities like obesity or depression. The presence of these factors can increase the cost of a work injury. Prevention is often the best medicine and it is more cost effective than a full blown disability claim.
If an injury has already occurred, the cost of implementing equipment for disabled or injured employees can even be lower than the long term medical costs if you don’t have specialized equipment. Instead of exacerbating symptoms this equipment can help reduce them- and reduce medical bills that would have incurred had symptoms flared up.
While physicians are very knowledgeable about the medical aspects of a claim, they might not know about the job and its required activities. It is important that they are kept in the loop when discussing possible light-duty jobs so they can have a better idea of what the patient can or cannot handle and make any suggestions.
Staying in touch with injured employees while they are rehabilitating is also crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with workers. Send a get-well-card from co-workers, or check in with a simple phone call. They will feel like they are cared about and less likely to develop “disability syndrome” or seek a lawyer.
Return to work can be a great morale boost to the team and a cost saver for the company- if it is implemented and implemented correctly. Think about possible light-duty jobs in your own company if you haven’t already. Should the worst happen, it could make all the difference.