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Early Return to Work - A Work Comp Cost Control Program

Managing your Workers Compensation (WC) costs is a key risk management effort for any firm. This is a process that must be managed and thoughtfully implemented to be effective. One component of an effective Workers Compensation management program is having an Early Return to Work program. Here are some implementation considerations.


Your WC premiums are developed using employee classification codes, payrolls, and your Experience Modification Rate (EMR). A prior article described the function of your EMR and how it impacts WC premiums. Lowering your EMR can significantly reduce WC premiums.

Implementing an Early Return to Work program is an effective way to limit WC claims dollars allocated to lost time (payroll to an injured employee while they are not working). Getting injured employees back to work quickly reduces loss dollars which discounts your EMR.

Medical Provider Involvement

The first element of the program is to have a relationship with a medical provider that supports early return to work and is aware of your program. Getting your medical provider involved immediately in all WC cases allows you and your insurer to manage the treatment for the worker.

Using an occupational medical provider can make this process easier. These medical professionals have training and support staff that specialize in occupational medical care. Most large healthcare organizations have this type of practice available. You can also ask your WC insurer for assistance in identifying preferred providers.

Insurance Carrier Involvement

This program cannot be successful if the insurance company is not on board. You should make this a selection point when considering workers compensation carriers. Have this discussion before you purchase coverage.

Case Management

A WC case with restricted duty is not a set it and forget it event. Your medical provider and insurer must have a medical case management process. This provides ongoing follow up with the worker to manage their rehabilitation until they return to full duty. Early Return to Work is intended to be a short duration solution to avoid lost time injuries. It will not be effective without proper case management.

Identify Early Return to Work Positions

You cannot wait until you have an injury to decide to accommodate an early return to work case. You should identify what duties are available within you organization that can accommodate lifting restrictions, mobility restrictions or other medical restrictions. Most firms have tasks that bring value to the enterprise but can be done within a restricted job description. It is key for you to identify these opportunities and have job and physical demand descriptions defined so the medical provider is comfortable in returning the employee to work.

Alternate Work Sites

If you cannot accommodate restrictions, consider approaching a sheltered workshop in your community to serve as an alternate work site. Most of the sheltered workshops are experienced in dealing with restrictions and disability issues and may be able to accommodate your worker. This is a resource that must be identified in advance and have information available to your medical provider to allow assignment to return to work.

Benefits of Early Return to Work

It is in your interest as an employer to return workers to productive status as quickly as possible for obvious economic benefits. Having a program that also controls WC expenses by avoiding lost time injuries is an added incentive to implement this policy. Early Return to Work also benefits employees by keeping them engaged and involved. It can be difficult to get a worker back from disability if they are away from the workplace for an extended time. Avoiding the disability period keeps your employee involved, earning a full paycheck and shows your support for them. The program has benefits beyond WC cost control.

The Driehaus Difference

Selecting and qualifying an insurance company is not a task that most firms are comfortable undertaking. Your need to Have experience in dealing with the different carriers, their claims management practices, their risk control support, and the services they bring to the table.

We understand the impact of medical care choices, return to work programs and medical case management on your insurance program and its cost structure. You need a professional resource to help you manage the full spectrum of WC risks and programs.

Call us at 513-977-6860 to discuss your needs with our experienced insurance professionals. You can learn about our services and skills by visiting our website: Reach out to us to get the professional assistance you deserve.


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