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Benefits of Return-to-Work Program

As an employer you may already know that returning workers to a light-duty capacity can benefit your bottom-line. It can control the costs associated with Workers’ Compensation premiums and help maximize your Retro refunds – if you participate. Knowing who is eligible and how to recoup wages can be the difficult part of the equation.

One financial incentive employers’ are given to bring their workers back at a modified capacity is the Stay-At-Work Program (SAW). Every state insured employer already pays for this through up-front composite premiums. To be eligible for the SAW reimbursement program you must meet the following criteria: Be paying workers’ compensation premiums to L&I; be the employer at the time of injury; or for an occupational disease claim, either a) be an employer whose experience rating is impacted by the claim because the worker was once employed by your company, or b) be the last employer to employ the worker when the allowed claim was filed.

The workers’ health-care provider must be given a description of the available light-duty work which indicates the physical requirements of the job-functions.

This light-duty job description must be approved by the workers’ healthcare provider to qualify. Archbright recommends having three light-duty job offers on file (back, upper extremity, and lower extremity) to help speed up the process and qualify quicker, recouping more reimbursements.

Once you have met the above criteria you can start the application process for reimbursement. Members of Archbright’s Workers’ Compensation program qualify to have Archbright file this on your behalf. Participants are eligible to recoup 50% of an employee’s wages while they are performing this approved modified job, for up to 66 days or $10,000, whichever comes first. The direct fiscal savings this provides can be quantified. However, there are many more indirect benefits to bringing someone back at a light-duty capacity that you may not immediately correlate to return-to-work.

For an employee, there are many benefits of returning to work at a light-duty capacity. For one, they continue to earn full-wages. If they rely on being paid out Time-Loss benefits from the state, the employee only qualifies for 60-75% of lost wages. Many studies have shown that employees who return to work at a light-duty capacity recover faster than those that collect Time-Loss benefits. Also, there is much less of a chance of compounding that injury further. Lastly, employees help instill a sense of trust with the employer and increases their job security. The longer they are off work, the harder it is to get back to their original job and wages.

Beyond the measurable savings that employers can recoup by bringing an injured worker back at a light-duty capacity, there are other benefits from Return-to-Work. It positively impacts employee engagement and company culture. High levels of employee engagement lead to increased retention, quality, safety, productivity, revenue, and profits. It also creates opportunities for cross-training and sharing of institutional knowledge. If your longest tenured machinist is the injured worker, ask them to help mentor and train employees that are newer to the company. This will strengthen teams, increase skills, and spread knowledge throughout the organization. All the while, your employee will earn the same income and your organization will recoup 50% of those wages, control up-front Worker’s Compensation costs, and maximize your Retro refunds (if in a Retro program).

As you can see, understanding the benefits of properly managing a workers return- to-work can be worth its weight in gold for your organization.

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Tiffany Knudsen

Tiffany Knudsen is a Content Manager at Archbright. She creates and reviews all Safety related content. She joined Archbright in 2006 as a Safety/Loss Control Professional. In that role, she oversaw Archbright Retro participants, and provided them with financial analysis and safety-related assistance. She is a certified Instructor Trainer through Medic First Aid and is the Medic First Aid Director for ASW. Tiffany attended Chico State University and has over twelve years’ experience working as an EMT, Firefighter and as a National EMT Instructor.