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Return-to-work programs

SAIF is committed to helping injured workers return to work as early as is medically appropriate. Return-to-work programs play a major role in controlling claim costs.

If an injured worker cannot return immediately to regular work due to physical limitations or constraints, SAIF return-to-work consultants will work with the employer and the treating physician to return the injured worker to a transitional/temporary job.

View a sample return-to-work policy in PDF or Word format.

Overview

A successful return-to-work program facilitates the process of identifying and providing transitional/temporary jobs in order to bring the worker back to work at the earliest possible time rather than waiting for the worker to be released for regular work duties.

A successful return-to-work program is essential to all Oregon employers who have workers' comp claims. It can assist in containment of workers' comp claim costs as well as encourage workers to participate in the process, thus enhancing their awareness of safety and their responsibility in the recovery process.

Proactive return-to-work efforts can be a pricing and selection advantage for those who perform post-loss cost containment activities. A sample written program is included in this section. As with any new written process, check with a legal professional before implementing to ensure it is consistent with your other written policies.

Communication with all parties—the injured worker, the attending physician, company management, the immediate supervisor, and the insurance company—is crucial to the success of the program. There should also be a provision for monitoring the transitional/temporary job, until the worker is released for regular work or the worker's condition becomes medically stationary.

Program benefits

  • Injured workers off work longer than six months have only a 50 percent chance of returning to their job. If time loss exceeds one year, there is a 90 percent chance they will never return to work.
  • Return-to-work programs reduce medical costs. The injured worker heals faster, shortening the time medical treatment is required.
  • Return-to-work programs reduce legal costs. Workers are less likely to feel their rights have been violated causing them to hire legal council.
  • Cost reductions resulting from return-to-work programs can directly impact your organization's workers' comp premium rate.

Manage the process

The immediate supervisor serves a key role in making the process successful. Consistent and on-going communication with the worker is vital. The process should be treated in a positive, proactive fashion. The worker in a transitional/temporary job should be made to feel that she or he is a productive part of the workforce. Care and concern should be expressed by all involved, including the worker's peers. You should inform your claims adjuster and/or return-to-work consultant regarding any changes in the worker's transitional/temporary work status.

How to get your injured workers back to work and control workers' compensation costs

Find a transitional/temporary job that fits the injury
Use your Release to Return-to-Work form or physician's release form to determine the physician's work restrictions. Then, if possible, identify a suitable transitional/temporary job within those restrictions.

Provide a copy of this form to your worker and instruct the worker to have their physician complete the form at each visit and return it to you so that you may stay updated with their most current work restrictions.

Do not wait for the physician to contact you
Write a description of the transitional job (using the Job Description form listed on Getting back to work page), identifying the physical requirements of your transitional/temporary position. When applicable, use the information previously obtained from your Release to Return-to-Work form or other physician's release information.

Send the job description to the treating physician, introducing the job and expressing your willingness to accommodate the physical restrictions the physician identified. Offer to pick up the response, or provide a fax or contact number to the doctor and ask them to advise you when it is completed from the physician's office to speed up the process. Maintain contact with the physician until you obtain approval.

When you get a physician's approval of the job description:
Call the injured worker and have him/her come in to your office to go over the job description (job duties) and sign the Job Offer letter (A sample is included in this section.) Make sure the work restrictions are clear to the worker and to all the necessary levels of supervision.

If the duration of the Job Offer is unknown, use "temporary, to be reviewed periodically."

If the worker has no phone, is not returning calls, or has moved out of the area:

Send a written Job Offer letter via both certified (restricted delivery) and regular mail. This letter should inform the worker that the physician has released him/her. Use your Job Offer letter (sample included in this section) to satisfy your legal requirements. Be sure to include a copy of the Job Description form signed by the physician.

Notify your SAIF claims adjuster or return-to-work consultant:

  • When the worker returns to work
  • If the worker refuses the modified work or fails to report to work on the start date
  • If the work available for the worker is less than on the Job Offer letter

Send a copy of the physician's release, the approved Job Description, and your written Job Offer to the SAIF claims adjuster and/or return-to-work consultant, along with certified receipts.

It is important to note that there are certain situations in which a worker may refuse an offer of modified employment and continue to receive temporary total disability benefits. Please be sure to contact your SAIF claims adjuster and/or return-to-work consultant for more information regarding these scenarios.