Workplace injuries and illnesses are costly – to the worker and their family, the employer and the broader community. Preventing injuries is the best way to protect workers and control workers’ compensation and other costs, however, employers and workers need a way to manage injuries if they do occur.

A timely and safe return to work can help injured workers recover more quickly as well as reduce disability related income replacement costs. Watson Wyatt’s Staying @Work: Effective Presence at Work (2007 Survey Report, Canada) indicates that “although STD and LTD claims costs are declining as a percentage of payroll, the average participating organization is still spending more than $10.5 million a year in total absence claims.” This represents the direct cost associated with insurance and medical care, sick leave etc. The indirect costs associated with lost productivity, loss of morale, replacement costs are also significant and some sources estimate them as much as four times the direct costs.

Research and practical experience has shown that for workers who are absent from the workplace:

  • There is only a 50 percent chance they will return to work after a six month absence
  • This declines to a 25 percent chance following a one year absence, and

This is further reduced to less than 10 percent after a two year absence. 

Safe Work – RTW Basics: A guide to developing or enhancing a return to work program

In addition to the significant cost, an employer has legal obligations to accommodate injury and disability in the workplace. Under Manitoba and Canadian Human Rights Legislation employers are required to make every reasonable effort, short of undue hardship to accommodate an employee who has a disability. Manitoba Workers Compensation legislation requires employers who have 25 or more full-time or regular part-time workers to re-employ injured workers who were in their employ for at least 12 months prior to their injuries.

In addition to the numerous legal, business and human reasons to implement return to work strategies employers are also dealing with an ageing workforce and a need to retain their workers. Needless to say employers should find ways to intervene early and bring their disabled employees back to work where possible regardless of the type of disability. Where should an employer start? The following HR strategies have been found to assist in facilitating an earlier return to work for employees and mitigating disability costs in the process.

  1. Designate an individual in your organization to act as a Return to Work Coordinator.
  2. Develop a policy that identifies eligibility criteria, roles and responsibilities of all key players, and the return to work process and objectives. The policy should apply to both work-related and non-work related disability.
  3. Ensure that your process involves management, the employee, the medical practitioner and insurance provider and union (if applicable).
  4. Develop Physical Demands Analysis of all positions to assist in communication with medical professionals and to assist in assessing an individual’s ability to return to their job.
  5. Review the types of disability in your workplace and identify opportunities for modified, transitional tasks or jobs.
  6. Develop a return to work fitness form to communicate with medical professionals and to assist in assessing an individual’s ability to return to work.
  7. Develop a package and process to communicate information on your return to work program to the medical community and other stakeholders such as the WCB and insurance companies. This package should include information on your policy, process, jobs etc.
  8. Train supervisors and employees in the process.
  9. Monitor and modify process as necessary. Flexibility is key.
  10. Finally, track your progress. Many organizations do not track the direct and indirect costs of disability in the workplace. By tracking progress you will find what is working well and what isn’t and can make appropriate changes to your disability management processes.

About On–Site Safety & Health Management Solutions:

Each year, thousands of employees are injured on the job. The short and long–term impact of these injuries can be significant. On–Site Safety & Health Management Solutions can help you incorporate safety into all your business activities.

The cost of a single workplace accident can be more than the price of prevention. With an understanding of your workplace history and specific concerns, we focus on managing trouble spots within a broad program of safety and disability management, or within a program customized specifically to meet your needs.

Our Expertise
We are experts in the field of safety, health and disability management, and we have a proven track record of assisting clients in developing creative solutions to manage disability issues, while reducing the cost of workplace injury and disability. Our team is experienced in safety auditing, training and injury management and has experience working in a variety of industry sectors, and for all sizes of organizations.

Access the On–Site Safety & Health Management Solutions here.