Report encourages returning injured employees to work to save money
The challenging economy is leading to longer disability durations, adding to employers' workers' comp costs, but by focusing on systems that enhance return to work and avoiding those that create barriers, workers' comp participants can minimize the impact, according to a new report.
"Against a backdrop of high unemployment, some injured workers may face even greater challenges in returning to work," says the Workers Compensation Research Institute. "Identifying system features that promote early RTW and understanding those that create barriers to RTW can help policymakers focus on win-win opportunities for both injured workers and employers."
In its report, Factors Influencing Return to Work for Injured Workers: Lessons from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, WCRI explored the workers' comp systems of two states that until recently had reported better RTW outcomes than other states. It found, for example, that the likelihood of longer-term absence and higher indemnity costs may be reduced by providing clear standards and processes for temporary disability benefit termination that provide mutual financial incentives for employers and injured workers to return to safe and suitable light, modified or transitional duty during the healing process. It effectively minimizes a worker's detachment from the workforce.
Additional findings include:
- Public policy decisions that impact the delivery of workers' comp medical care can affect indemnity benefits through the RTW process.
- The transition from temporary to permanent disability benefits is a key turning point. "The most important system design approaches for facilitating RTW encompass strong, bilateral incentives for pre-injury employers to return workers with permanent restrictions to work and for injured workers to accept legitimate offers of employment," the study said.
- Workers with permanent restrictions represent several impact opportunities from the standpoint of workers' comp system design. They are especially vulnerable to difficulties and delays in return to work. Their challenges are magnified in the economic downturn and put a public policy spotlight on how workers' comp systems address workers who are unable to return to work with the preinjury employer, especially in the areas of lump-sum settlement practices and the availability of vocational rehabilitation and retraining benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 22, 2011
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