by Kenneth A. David, Esq.

We’ve all heard the statistics that returning injured employees back to work as soon as practical after a work injury can greatly reduce the overall cost of the claim, not to mention improve the overall outcome of the claim. But how do employers increase the odds that the return to work will be successful? When employers/insurance carriers have to use the legal system via the WC-240 to force the employee back to work, the odds of long term success are not very high. Instead, employers can increase the chances of light duty work actually “working” by taking the following steps:

1. Make sure all employees are aware that you have light duty work for someone injured on the job. It not only will set expectations for those injured but will also create an atmosphere that will be more supportive of the injured worker when he or she returns to work.

2. Make sure your panel doctors know you have light duty work and provide details of what those positions entail. Invite those doctors to your plant to see all the jobs and discuss the type of light duty work you might have available.

3. Have written descriptions of the light duty job for not only the doctor, but also the supervisors.

4. Get the employee back to work within the first seven days. The longer the employee is out of work, the less likely it is that any return to work will be successful.

5. If the employee is off work for an extended period of time (more than a month) have the employee come back to the light duty job on a Thursday. This allows two days for the employee to adjust and then two days off to rest on the weekend.

6. When the employee comes back to work, check in regularly for the first several days. This allows not only for adjustments to be made to the position, if necessary, but also shows the employee that the employer is invested in making sure the return to work is successful. Also, information gained from checking in can be provided to the treating physician, if needed, should the employee contend they are unable to work the light duty position.

Employees who believe their employer cares about them are less likely to hire an attorney or litigate their claim. Having a well thought out and established return to work program helps in this regard by creating an environment conducive to a successful return to work and also provides the communication exchange which will more likely lead to a positive experience for both the employee and employer.