Loss Control Insights

Transition Employees Back to Work

Return to Work

Insisting employees be released to “full duty” before returning to work after an injury or illness is one of the most costly return-to-work mistakes.1 A proven way to avoid that mistake is to provide transitional work for recovering employees.

Transitional work allows employees who have temporary physical restrictions to return to or remain at work following an illness or injury. This strategy is an important component of a comprehensive return to work program, which could save employers an average of $463 per day of work in medical and indemnity costs, according to EMC loss analysis. Employers often have a hard time identifying transitional work for their employees, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. EMC Injury Management Consultant Linda Van Woert offers the following tips on identifying and managing transitional work:

  • Identify transitional jobs before they are needed. Don’t wait for an injury before you consider transitional tasks for employees. Create a transitional work task list with predetermined modified tasks that meet typical medical restrictions, such as lifting, walking, standing, overhead reaching, one-handed duties, bending and sitting.
  • Be creative. When developing transitional work, consider seasonal tasks, “rainy day” projects and other meaningful tasks that need to be done, such as inventory or data logs. Remember, the work can consist of any number of tasks and doesn’t necessarily need to include all or any of an employee’s regular job.
  • Involve the whole team. Supervisors, management staff and employees should work together to identify transitional tasks. Employees often have the best ideas for transitional work because they are performing the jobs every day. EMC loss control professionals are also available to provide assistance.
  • Consult physicians. Discuss transitional work should be discussed with the recovering worker’s treating physician before he/she returns to the workplace. Share written documentation from the treating physician about any medical restrictions, abilities and medical approval for specific tasks with the employee.
  • Make it a formal process. Present recovering employees with a written offer of transitional duty, including a description of the tasks and work hours assigned. Workers should indicate their acceptance or rejection of the offer in writing. Immediately report any problems the worker encounters in completing transitional tasks to a supervisor.

According to Van Woert, effective transitional job planning and monitoring creates a “we want you back at work” culture. Establishing such a culture also avoids a second mistake: “… having the employee stay at home and develop a ‘disability attitude’ that extends the absence and drives up costs.”

Additional Resources

1Ring, Kevin. “10 Costly Return-to-Work Mistakes.” Property Casualty 360°. 5 March 2014. Web. 24 June 2014. www.propertycasualty360.com