Reduce Claim Costs by Returning Employees to Light Duty

InSource previously sent out some information regarding Hiring Practices and how in times of low unemployment, we still can’t lower our standards and hire any person that comes in the door. Hiring the best fit for the job is one way to proactively reduce the number of claims. Once a person is hired, ongoing safety reviews and safety reminders are essential to keeping safety awareness at the forefront of employees’ minds.

But, once an accident occurs, what are the best practices to keeping the claim costs low? The first is to report every claim in a timely manner. Same-day or within 24 hours should be the standard every company strives to achieve. This allows for the adjuster to research the incident as thoroughly as possible and to make a compensability decision within the state-specific timeframes. Secondly, provide all documentation as quickly as possible. Witness statements, video footage, employee files, medical paperwork, POMQ’s (post-offer medical questionnaires), return to work status updates, and other paperwork assists the adjuster to make accurate claim decisions.

But the most crucial post-incident step to reducing claim costs is getting that employee back to work. When an injured worker is off work healing, a physician will regularly examine them. These exams will in part determine whether the worker is ready to return to their previous tasks. In some cases, it may be possible to get the individual back to work sooner with light duties. Workers' compensation consumes a sizable portion of overall personnel costs. A solid return program can reduce those costs, including intangible ones, like the absence of an experienced worker.

To make something like this happen, a light-duty program must be put in place. A solid program should have the following features:
  • Addresses environmental, physical, knowledge, and emotional factors that may prevent employees from returning to work.
  • Makes the transition to full-time work easier.
  • Focuses on employees' abilities instead of their disabilities.
A return to work program helps speed up employees' recovery processes. Recent research shows that 50% of workers who stay out of work for more than six months will never return to their jobs. If they stay out for more than one year, the likelihood of returning to work is about 10%. Estimates suggest that the workers in a program return approximately 1.4 times sooner compared to workers injured at a firm without a program. This corresponds to a reduction of between 3-4 weeks in the median duration of time to return to work for all workers. According to data collected by the Job Accommodation Network, 74% of employers that implemented some form of return to work accommodations rated them as either very or extremely effective – with most accommodations costing the employers nothing.

When offering a light-duty job offer to an employee, be sure to do so in writing. The key is to get the employee to accept or decline the offer and to sign the offer letter. If the employee accepts, there should be no question as to the job being offered. If the employee declines, then in most instances TTD payments can be stopped. Your company may already have light-duty offer templates in place. If not, three sample light duty job offer letters have been included for your use. These examples are for illustrative purposes only. They may not satisfy the legal or regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction. Please consult with your attorney prior to adding these forms to your workers' compensation tool kit.
If you need any help with establishing a Return to Work Program, InSource can assist in examining those practices. Don't hesitate to contact your designated account manager or me for more information and assistance.

Rick Noss
Vice President of Risk/Underwriting
InSource Employer Solutions, Inc.