Resurgence in Return to Work Gives Ample REWARDS for Employees’ Restoration

Return to Work Resurgence offers ample REWARDS for workers recovery

When I got into workers’ compensation insurance for the first time more than two decades ago, the concept of “returning to work” was already on the wane. It could better be described as a complete retreat. Retraining programs and professional services have been cut. Second Injury Funds quickly became a memory. Industry change has centered on the easier route of “process and close” and what happened to the injured workers afterwards was really none of our business. Fortunately, this trend is showing signs of reversal.

In recent years the discussion about the need to treat the “whole person” after an accident at work has shifted significantly. The concept is referred to as numerous things, including bio-psychosocial care and claims advocacy; but all discussions recognize the importance of understanding and responding to the mental health and status of the injured worker. With this trend, it has been recognized that focusing on the bigger picture improves results and even reduces costs. And the tacit admission is that it does no good to simply fire injured workers with a severance payment and disability label. Society suffers from this scenario as do the injured workers.

Another insight is that dignity is an integral part of a positive attitude and that meaning and purpose can give dignity to meaningful work. The return of injured workers to work is once again recognized as an integral part of the recovery process (and as you know, we are all about the recovery of workers in this corner of the forest). There are clear signs that RTW is back in fashion.

Washington State is a leader in this area, and Tennessee is also showing great innovations aimed at more effective RTW results. Washington L&I has successfully implemented laws in the state that greatly improve their ability to deploy early-stage vocational training services. The concept of linking career advisors with claims adjusters early on in the event of a claim appears to be producing very positive results. Care is improving, the results are better, and the state insurer shows the savings will run into billions. That’s billions with a B, folks.

In Tennessee, they’re easy announced this week new employer training programs that are part of BWC’s newly developed program “Returning Employees to Work And Reducing Disabilities (REWARD)”. According to the agency: “The initiative helps interested employers to develop and adapt a return program for their company. A REWARD program can be beneficial for both large and small employers. ”The initial training provided six online courses for employers: Worker Compensation 101, The Role of a Return to Work Coordinator, Working with Doctors, Analysis labor demand, legal issues outside of employee compensation, and effective communication.

In a statement, BWC Administrator Abbie Hudgens said, “Helping injured employees find meaningful work is a goal that benefits everyone. The return to work coordinator training provides employers with valuable skills and tools to make REWARD a reality for employers and their employees. ”The press release also states:“ The BWC training program uses specialist knowledge from vocational rehabilitation, case management, Physiotherapy, employers, medical providers, lawyers and the state government to provide a comprehensive training experience. “

There are numerous private providers who have focused on these new strategies to improve results for the industry. Some employers have also initiated very effective RTW programs on their own initiative. A Article on this page last month highlighted an RTW program by the Sikorsky aviation company that resulted in a 48 percent reduction in lost working days within 9 months of implementation. Real change, however, will not materialize until government regulators embrace the concept and recognize the importance of effective return to work principles (broadly, I would argue to call them “return to function,” but I’ll leave it at that for another Day). Moving from states like Washington and Tennessee is critical to making an effective return to work a part of everyday life rather than an exception to the rule.

In the end, it comes down to leadership and the willingness to move against the current of conventional thought processes.

This blog has long been campaigning for the workers ‘compensation industry to be renamed Workers’ Recovery. No other term better meets expectations of both the people entering the system and the professionals charged with assisting them. A key cog of the workers’ recovery concept is restoring dignity through purpose, and avoiding incapacity for work by restoring the functionality of injured workers is key to this process. It is refreshing to see that one of the most important elements in this process is re-emerging.

We’ll all be better off for the exertion.


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