Magazine article Risk Management

Smooth Return

Magazine article Risk Management

Smooth Return

Article excerpt

It would be hard to argue against the idea of return-to-work, programs encouraging injured employees back to work in modified job capacities, supporting their recovery and their sense of self-worth. However, implementing such a policy means more than agreeing with it's benefits. It requires creating or following a set of guidelines to make it work the way it's supposed to. In other words, its time for return-to-work best practices.

According to a series of tips from Liberty Mutual, a well-designed return-to-work policy should bring a disabled employee back to the job--in a useful capacity--as soon as possible. Return-to-work is based on the positive point of view that workers want to work, that sitting at home collecting benefits--and at the same time losing initiative--is not an attractive situation for any employee to find themselves in.

"What will happen in many cases is that people get into a disability mind-set," says Richard Quebec, author of Liberty Mutual's return-to-work best practice tips. "Things that are ordinarily easy for them to do become difficult the longer they've been out of work."

A good start in creating an efficient policy is to develop and update an alternate duty database, working with managers in all areas of your company. Having this database prepared in advance means that you'll always know what tasks need to be accomplished. "There are many opportunities for work to be performed that normally goes undone," says Mr. Quebec, who is also a product manager specializing in managing disability and lost time programs at Liberty Life Assurance Co. in Boston. "To have a listing of necessary tasks that can be performed on a modified basis and are not time-critical helps to provide opportunities for disabled workers to rejoin the workforce."

This also gives employers a chance to bring job descriptions into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that job descriptions should be written in terms of physical and cognitive requirements. Mr. Quebec adds, "For employers, this is a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone."

Sometimes, due to the seriousness of the injury or type of work that the company requires, bringing an employee back to the workplace is just not feasible. If this is the case, Mr. Quebec suggests finding work for the employee in a charitable capacity. "This work helps the community and also helps the worker get started on what I like to call their spring training. I've found this idea to be accepted very positively. …

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