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Positive returns possible with a return-to-work program

Posted April 30, 2018

By Michael Henckel, associate editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

Nobody wants to be injured on the job, and employers don’t want the extra expense that is associated with job-related injuries. Despite workplace safety programs and best practices, unfortunately, injuries do occur, but a return-to-work program can help bring employees safely back to work after such injuries, which helps companies control their costs and simultaneously benefits individual employees.

Employer benefits

Return-to-work programs help employers develop a plan to bring experienced workers back to the job as soon as is reasonable based on medical evaluations. Not only does this help with productivity, but having employees working again, even in a limited capacity, will reduce workers’ compensation costs.

Return-to-work programs can help employers reduce workers’ compensation costs by having a positive impact on the company’s experience modification rating (also known as the MOD rate). The MOD rate is a calculation based on the employer’s claims over the past three years. The fewer claims (or claim payouts), the lower the MOD rate, which means lower premiums. Many insurance companies look favorably on return-to-work programs and will likely offer lower workers’ compensation premiums to employers who have such a program in place.

Beyond the cost implications, these programs allow employers to build stronger relationships with injured employees – even those who aren’t immediately able to return to work in any capacity. Return-to-work programs that provide clear communication and stress that the company’s first obligation is helping an injured employee get back to proper health shows employees that the company cares about their overall well-being.

Employee morale

Employees who know they have their employer’s support may be more motivated to return to work for that employer, and in doing so are helping themselves. Studies show that injured workers who go back to work actually recover faster.

On the other hand, the longer employees are away from work with injuries, the less likely they are to get back on the job. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, when employees are away from work for six months, there is only a 50 percent likelihood of them returning, and when out for a year or more, the chance of return drops to 25 percent.

A return-to-work program can also boost morale for other employees. Having a coworker back on the job can decrease the stress of any additional workload that might have been placed on the remaining employees. Some employees might be frustrated with a coworker’s light-duty assignments or fear the employer pushed the employee to come back to work before the individual was ready, but for many, seeing their coworker back on the job reinforces the company’s stance on employee well-being.

About the author:

Michael Henckel

Michael Henckel is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Henckel specializes in topics such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, employee classification, and compensation. He is the author of J. J. Keller’s FSLA Essentials guidance manual. For more information, visit and