Formal return-to-work programs are an established means of controlling elements of workplace unscheduled absence.
About 54% of employers in the 2005 JHA Absence Management Survey said they have some type of formal return-to-work program, with prevalence ranging from 35% in companies with 100 or fewer employees to 77% of employers with 5,000 or more workers.
Those findings are supported by the 2004 Marsh Mercer Employer Survey Report on Employers’ Time-off and Disability Program, in which 58% of respondents indicated they use a consistent return-to-work approach to all absences related to a disability.
About 65% of employers in the JHA survey felt they were having success in returning employees to work, while 56% said their disability insurance carrier or administrator could do a better job of returning employees to work sooner. Those results warrant a closer look at what constitutes a return-to-work program.
Here are the three C’s of a successful return-to-work program, along with one important V.
Successful programs require commitment from both the insurance carrier and the employer. Each stakeholder must allocate resources and develop and implement processes that focus on returning employees to work.
The employer commits to review the benefits program costs that relate to medical absence. Once this is complete, it will show the employer what the lost-time costs are to the organization. Consideration needs to be given to the type of industry and jobs performed in the worksites. Based on a review of this information, the employer makes a decision to move forward to implement a return-to-work program.
Employers should commit to creating a policy that promotes return to work for all disability absences and setting resources toward specific goals, such as streamlining processes. The commitment should include a shift in philosophy to focus on abilities, not disability.
A critical element requiring commitment on the part of the employer is creating staff with return-to-work responsibilities.