Developing a Return-to-Work Policy

Workers’ compensation is designed to help get a worker who sustains a work-related injury recompense for their lost wages and medical expenses.  The worker wants to get back up on his or her feet and get back to work as soon as medically possible, in most cases.  Employers should be mindful of this and are obligated to help their employees by making certain accommodations for the injured worker.  This benefits both parties, as the employee can get back to work and the employer no longer has to worry about certain job duties needing to be covered by other workers.  To this end, employers need to work to develop a return-to-work policy that helps employees return quickly and safely to work.

An employer should take proactive steps to help an employee return to work.  This includes reaching out to the employee and his or her medical providers to determine the nature and the extent of the injury.  Employees and employers should keep an open dialogue about what is medically appropriate for the employee in terms of job duties and needed accommodations, and come to an agreement about what any type of modified duties will include.  This will necessarily include making sure that the medical providers agree with the restrictions and abilities of the employee.  An employer should research and evaluate the possible restricted work duties that are available in the business and make an offer of modified employment accordingly.  In the optimal situation, the employee will be able to remain in his or her original position with some accommodations that take the injury into account, but it may be necessary to assign him or her to a different position during the healing process.  After the employee starts on the new position, the accommodations should be monitored and modified as necessary.

Developing a plan to implement this return-to-work policy should be a group effort.  There may be several different people involved in this process, and an employer should keep in mind what other employees would be best suited to help with each step.  For example, the floor supervisor would be an excellent resource to ask about reasonable accommodations that are available, but may not be best suited to ask to retrieve paperwork from medical professionals.  Each step should be thoughtfully mapped with each employee knowing precise roles.  The employer should put particular emphasis on getting all paperwork done promptly and with a high degree of detail.

Implementing a return-to-work policy is an essential step for businesses and should be done with mindfulness.  Contact us today at (714) 516-8188 to talk about your policies and your business.

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