Benefits of Return to Work Program

Benefits of Return to Work Program image
By Robert Schiller, AIC; AVP, AmTrust North America

Every seven seconds.

That’s how often a worker is injured on the job, according to the National Safety Council. When a business loses an employee to an illness or injury, both the employee and the employer feel the pain.

The best way to alleviate the stress on everyone is with a modified duty or return to work (RTW) program. A critical part of the rehabilitation process, an effective RTW program enables sick or injured employees to ease back into the workplace while helping employers keep their workers’ compensation costs in check. RTW programs allow employees who are unable to perform their pre-injury job duties to assume a modified role with their employer while they recover.

A well-planned, well-run RTW program benefits employees and their employers in a variety of ways. From an employee perspective, the program:

Frees the injured employee from financial stress. An RTW program enables the recovering employee to begin earning his or her original wages sooner, providing the employee’s family with invaluable financial security.

Keeps the recovering employee’s skills sharp. By avoiding a long, stagnant layoff, the employee will retain his or her skill set.

Keeps the injured employee socially connected. A relatively short absence from work allows the recovering employee to avoid feeling socially isolated. Plus, the opportunity to be productive gives the employee a sense of purpose.

Reduces recovery time. An injured employee’s safe and swift reintegration into the workplace, even in a different role, can help hasten the healing process.

Boosts morale. Knowing the employer has taken the necessary steps to ensure a safe return to work will fuel the recovering employee with optimism, confidence and peace of mind.

By implementing a comprehensive RTW program, a business can:

Reduce costs. By offering injured employees the opportunity to assume a modified role – when it’s medically feasible – employers can minimize their workers’ compensation costs, including their temporary total disability payments. What’s more, the swift return of an experienced employee will save the employer the cost of training and compensating a temporary replacement.

Reduce turnover. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s only a 50% chance that an injured employee will return to work after a six-month absence. Having a program in place that facilitates an employee’s safe and supportive reentry will only increase the likelihood of the employee’s return. Moreover, the time and expense involved with hiring and training new employees can cut deeply into a company’s profit margin.

Maintain productivity. Injured employees who return to work, even in a limited capacity, can still be valuable contributors. Having the opportunity to be – and feel – productive is what every employee wants.

Lift team morale. Facilitating an injured employee’s safe yet swift return shows the employer cares about its employees and their welfare.

Building a Program That Works for Everyone

A good RTW program takes time to come together. The first step is to appoint a program coordinator with the skills and authority to ensure that everyone buys into the program. After collaborating with key decision makers, the coordinator will develop and endorse a program policy statement that will be distributed companywide. The next steps involve assembling a team of managers and team leaders to build the program by developing modified duty jobs and detailed job descriptions. The program coordinator will then meet with an occupational health physician to review the program and the modified duty roles.

Diligence will help fuel the success of the program. The company’s supervisors, team leaders and human resources personnel should routinely check in with the recovering employees for feedback and updates on the progress of their rehabilitation.

Best Practices

Beyond staying in compliance, there are other best practices to follow, including:
  • Investing the resources and time to promote the RTW program to all employees.
  • Training managers and supervisors in work disability prevention and including them in all RTW planning.
  • Reaching out to the recovering employee on a regular basis. Doing so will allow the employee to feel connected with – and valued by – his or her work team.
  • Communicating regularly with the employee’s treating physician and occupational health specialist to ensure a smooth transition. The employer’s offer of transitional work should be a good match for the employee’s functional capacity.
  • Supporting the recovering employee without disadvantaging co-workers and supervisors. When planning the transition, it’s important to consider how new relationships and routines may affect the workplace dynamic.

Go-to Resources

When planning an RTW program, your state’s Workers’ Compensation Bureau website is a good place to start. A keyword search of “return to work” should bring up an array of relevant resources. 

Unfortunately, workplace injuries do happen. That’s why it’s important to have the right workers’ compensation coverage. As the nation’s fourth largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier, AmTrust protects businesses representing more than 350 classes. A Fortune 500 company with an A- (“Excellent”) rating from A.M. Best, AmTrust has the resources and experience to create a customized coverage plan for every customer.

To help prevent workplace injuries, insurance providers like AmTrust Financial Services have Loss Control teams that can complete a comprehensive workplace safety assessment on site.

More Support, More Savings

Reducing the cost of workers’ comp claims takes a team effort. One way to get the job done is with a proactive return to work program. To learn more about creating a successful RTW program, contact Robert Schiller, AVP, AmTrust North America, at

Robert Schiller is a Director of Claims for AmTrust North America, a multinational property and casualty insurer supporting the risk mitigation needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Mr. Schiller is a lecturer for the Insurance Society of Philadelphia, the Council of Education, the Workers’ Compensation Judges’ Conference and the PA Workers’ Compensation Claims Association. For more information, contact Mr. Schiller at

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