According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the longer a worker is off, the less likely he or she is to return to work.

• After a six-month leave, there is only a 50 percent chance an employee will return to work.

• After a one-year leave, the chances drop to 25 percent.

• More than half of employees away from work more than 14 days experience financial difficulty.

A formalized return to work program is designed to help injured workers get back to work quickly and safely. Often, this will speed the employee’s recovery, avoid costly litigation and even improve employee relations.

“It’s beneficial because the employee wants to get back to work; they want to get healthy,” says Cliff Baseler, Vice President at Best Hoovler Insurance Services, Inc., a SeibertKeck company. “Because you’re engaging them in the process, it helps with a positive mental attitude — they’re active, they’re involved and they’re getting better.”

Smart Business spoke with Baseler — with assistance from Westfield Insurance — about how to set up and run your return to work program.

How does workers’ compensation affect insurance rates?

Rates are determined based on your loss experience. As your claims activity and the amount of claims paid increases, your premium rises. Although equally important, the payout probably has a bigger effect on overall rates.

That’s why return to work programs are so important because the quicker you can get people back to work, the less payout you’ll have. Back at work, they can do work that benefits the company and removes them from the workers’ compensation payroll.

How should an employer manage injuries right after they happen?

With early injury management, have a process for employees to immediately report when they get hurt. Communicating early reinforces the employer’s interest in the employee’s health and well-being.

Sometimes employees think they are doing you a favor by not telling you, or they don’t report a claim for fear of losing their jobs. Clearly lay out to employees that injuries happen, and you want to get them healthy again and learn from it so you can make improvements.

What role does the medical provider play?

The key is to communicate with physicians, ensuring they understand what kind of return to work program you’ve established. The medical provider can assist in identifying a position within the company that doesn’t hinder the employee’s recovery.

When should you make the return to work offer?

When possible, after physician approval, offer work to the injured employee. The offer should be in writing and describe the temporary work and conditions. It also should outline the expectations for employee and supervisor.

Once the employee is back at work, how should the case be managed?

A case manager should be assigned and work with the injured employee, physicians, your insurance carrier and management team. Typically the case manager is somebody in the human resources department or, depending on the size of company, anybody with a leadership role.

What’s the key to continually improving your return to work program?

As with any program, continually review successes and trends with all workers’ compensation claims. Adjust your return to work program and safety manuals to reduce future claims.

Your insurance broker can play a vital role in developing a return to work program or assisting to improve a current program. Look for a carrier with a strong risk management department.

If you rarely have workers’ compensation claims should you still have a return to work program?

Everybody should have some type of return to work program. In most cases, everybody is going to have a claim at some point.

Cliff Baseler is vice president at Best Hoovler Insurance Services Inc., a SeibertKeck company. Reach him at (614) 246-7475 or

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Published in Columbus