Keenan Blog

Your Return-To-Work Policies Impact Costs and Quality of Life

February 18, 2021
  • For some workers’ compensation claims, it is possible to lower the impact on both the injured worker and the employer by transitioning with a return-to-work (RTW) program during their recovery.
  • There are hidden costs of not having a return-to-work program in place.
  • A RTW program is also beneficial to injured workers.
  • Factors to consider for a RTW program.

Your Return-To-Work Policies Impact Costs and Quality of Life

It’s in the interest of everyone in the workplace to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. While reducing pain, grief and anxiety, fewer injuries, disabilities and deaths on the job reduces considerable expense for families, businesses and even taxpayers. Of course, workers’ compensation losses do occur despite the best risk reduction efforts. For some workers’ compensation claims, it is possible to lower the impact on both the injured worker and the employer by transitioning with a return-to-work program during their recovery.

A return-to-work (RTW) program can be a valuable addition to your workers’ compensation program. A RTW policy allows your employees to return to a light-duty or modified job while they continue recovery from an occupational injury or illness and is designed to help injured or sick employees get back to work in a safe and timely manner.

The cost savings for having a RTW program in place is one area that employers can control and, during these economic circumstances resulting from the pandemic, every dollar counts. The hidden costs of not having a return-to-work program in place is something employers may not be aware of, but quickly add up. Besides the indemnity cost for having the injured worker out, additional expenses can include:

  • Direct and indirect absenteeism costs
  • Lost productivity
  • Training replacement workers
  • Degraded skill sets of workers and retraining

There are also significant overtime costs for having essential workers out due to injury where shifts have to be covered, especially for police and fire. Finally, there are the annual state fees (based upon indemnity cost) which are all part of the workers’ compensation cost.

A RTW program is also very beneficial to injured workers. Being able to return to modified duty can contribute to:

  • Faster recovery
  • Restored self-esteem
  • No salary interruption
  • Getting back to normal in their regular job

Return-to-work is not always possible for every injured worker. Treating physicians may place restrictions on an injured employee that the employer is not always able to accommodate. For those who are able to participate in a RTW program, ongoing communication and monitoring of the injured worker’s progress is necessary for it to benefit both the worker and the employer.

If your organization doesn’t currently have a RTW program in place, establishing a policy with provisions for eligibility, criteria for entering or exiting the program, and defining transitional positions are great places to start. Developing a RTW program should also include a team of stakeholders representing employees, supervisors and managers, health, safety and risk management, as well as specialists from your workers’ comp insurer or administrator, and health care provider network. RTW programs can often be integrated as a part of treating provider networks where agreements can be established for modified duty protocols and lines of regular communication.

A well-designed return-to-work program can be a real win-win proposition for the entire workplace. Maintaining constructive and continuous communication between management and modified duty employees will help facilitate successful recovery transitions, reduce expenses, and may result in decreased litigation.


About Vanessa Peña
Vanessa Peña is an Account Executive who joined Keenan in 2010. Vanessa has been in the insurance industry since 1997 and has expertise with account management, market placement and construction programs. Vanessa works exclusively with California public agencies by helping manage their risks specializing in areas of insurance, re-insurance, self-insurance and risk management consultative services.