Why Early Return to Work is Still Your Best Defense Against High Work Comp Costs

Posted by John Cofini on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 @ 12:21 PM

early-return-to-workIt goes without saying that an on-the-job injury is bad for everyone involved. It’s bad for the employee, whose life is disrupted by the injury. It’s also bad for the employer, who loses the work of a valuable employee. Employers also need to keep workers’ compensation claims down. A quick recovery is in the best interest for everyone involved. Whenever possible, an early return to work should be encouraged.

Why an Early Return to Work Benefits the Worker

According to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), returning to work quickly can help injured workers get better faster and may be better for them socially and emotionally. It also benefits them financially, in the short term because workers’ compensation is less than their regular pay, and in the long term because they won’t miss out on raises or promotions.

According to a report from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, a New Mexico study found that workers earn an average of 15 percent less over the 10 years after an injury.

Preventing injuries from happening in the first place should always be the primary goal. However, when an injury occurs, a quick recovery is the next best thing.

Why an Early Return to Work Benefits the Employer

Return to work programs help employers in two key ways.

First, the program can help employers retain talent after an on-the-job injury. According to the WCB, an injured worker has a 50 percent chance of returning to work after a six-month absence. After a one-year absence, the likelihood drops to 25 percent. After a two-year absence, it plummets to 1 percent. Clearly, if employers want to retain workers, they need to get them back to work as quickly as possible.

Second, getting the worker back to work as quickly as possible can help reduce the costs of a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to reducing lost-time claims, returning to work can also benefit the worker’s health, which can help with recovery and medical claims. It may also improve the employee-employer relationship and reduce the chance of further legal issues.

Creating a Successful Return to Work Program

When creating a successful return to work program, it’s important to ensure the safety of the injured worker. The last thing anyone wants is a second injury and a new workers’ compensation claim. To accommodate the worker, the employer may need to consider providing a different position, job modification or reduced hours.

For more information, see the Return to Work WCB Communication Guidelines and the WCB Return to Work Handbook.

Tags: early return to work, work comp costs