Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Sep 28, 2015

5 Reasons to Offer Early Return-to-Work to Injured Employees

Safety and HealthWorkers’ Comp 

Have you wondered if you should offer early return-to-work options to employees injured on the job? At Vigilant, we answer this question with an enthusiastic YES!

After a workers’ comp claim is filed, light and/or modified jobs for every employee injured is beneficial for 5 primary reasons.

1. Plain and simple: People, who return to work faster, get better faster. Study after study shows that work promotes the healing process.

2. Time loss benefits are the largest avoidable cost of a claim. Early return to work makes cents…literally! Caring for people who are injured not only reduces the costs of a claim; it also reduces the risk of an L&I premium increase. In addition, it weeds out those seeking to take advantage of the system through dishonest claims.

3. Your worker stays on schedule and engaged in the work process, which relieves the stress and depression often associated with an injury. It helps him or her remain an engaged employee.

4. Early return to work helps avoid deconditioning so when your employee is healthy again they can more quickly and effectively transition back to his/her regular duties.

5. Having a “return-to-work” culture will boost morale, for the injured employee as well as his/her co-workers, increasing job security and satisfaction.

Nick personally knows how devastating a workplace injury can be. On June 5, 2014, while working as a mulch bagger for a Washington lumber mill, he sustained a serious workplace injury when his pants were caught in a roller, drawing him into a running hopper, and resulting in multiple deep complex thigh lacerations. After 5 months of skin grafting and intense physical therapy, Nick’s doctor filled out a light duty form allowing Nick to work in a sedentary light duty position. As a result, the employer was able to accommodate Nick returning to work as an office assistant, while slowly transitioning him back to his previous regular duties.

Nick’s employer stated, “We did not do anything out of the ordinary, we did what was right” to help Nikolaus in his recovery process. They also did what was best for the company as the potential cost of not offering light duty combined with a retraining program could easily have exceeded $100,000. According to L&I, “there is only a 50% chance that an injured worker will return to work after a six month absence, this declines to a 25% chance following a one year absence, and is further reduced to a 1% chance after a 2 year absence.” In this example, if Nick was not ever able to return to work, the potential costs would have doubled to more than $200,000. A low likelihood of returning to work has lasting and negative impact on an employee’s life. Not only are injured employees losing income and opportunity, but employers are paying very high costs through L&I premiums and potentially losing skilled people.

At Vigilant, we are committed to improving lives through injury prevention, management of HR issues, training and L&I claims advocacy. Please join us in returning injured workers to their jobs as quickly as possible. Learn more about our workers' comp program in Washington.

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