Your RTW policy: Is something missing?

The psychological boost of RTW

Employers who do not have a policy defining their return to work program are destined for failure," warns Donna Cohen, RN, BSN, COHN-S, CCM, manager of occupational health services at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, GA.

By returning the employee to work early, the employer avoids the cost of replacing the employee, and decreases temporary total disability payments, medical costs, and potential legal fees.

"The injured employee benefits from both a psychological and physical standpoint," says Cohen. "It enables the employee to continue with a productive life."

A company policy which defines responsibility and modified duty, along with a return to work agreement, benefits both the injured worker and the employer. She suggests that your return to work policy should include at least the following:

1. What the injured employee is responsible for, including the time frame for reporting an injury, completion of necessary paperwork, updating the employer at specific intervals on condition, treatment and medical status, and returning to a modified duty program within the medical restrictions set by the treating physician.

2. What the manager or supervisor is responsible for, including conducting an investigation, correcting hazards as soon as possible, completing necessary paperwork, reviewing the return to work policy with the injured employee, maintaining contact with the injured employee and the treating physicians, and identifying available modified duty assignments.

3. A definition of modified duty, whether the regular job with some tasks removed or an alternate job due to specific restrictions.

4. A return to work agreement listing the employee's regular job and the essential functions before the injury, the modified work the employee will be performing with a specific time frame defined by the physician, restrictions from the physician, and the anticipated date the employee will return to regular duty.