New research from the Workers Compensation Research Institute has found which factors most influence the efficacy of return-to-work programs, which are crucial for employers to lower their workers’ compensation costs.
“Better information about the predictors of poorer worker outcomes may allow payors and doctors to better target health care and return-to-work interventions to those most at risk,” said Dr. Richard Victor, executive director of the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
According to the study, titled “Predictors of Worker Outcomes,” trust was the predicting factor that decided whether or not a return-to-work program would be successful. One of the major aspects of this trust was the level of fear that workers had over whether or not they’d be fired as a consequence of their injury. Concerns about being terminated were associated with a whopping four-week increase in the average duration of employees’ disabilities. These workers also had poorer return-to-work outcomes than those workers who lacked such concerns.
“Employers should cooperate in explaining how a workers’ compensation claim is filed With the insurance company, trust can be improved if there is better communication between the injured worker and his employer,” says Robert Wisniewski, Arizona Workers Compensation Attorney. “Another point is that when the worker is out on medical leave treating for his Worker’s Compensation claim, periodic calls asking about his welfare would be useful in improving the trust relationship as the worker will not feel so abandoned.”
There were also certain medical conditions that influenced the time workers spent away from their jobs. Employees with hypertension had a three percentage point higher rate of not working. Employees that had heart problems had an eight percent point higher rate, and employees that had diabetes had a four percentage point higher rate.
In the past, successful return-to-work policies have included confirmations that the employers understand the full extent and nature of employees’ injuries, plans to reasonably accommodate employees’ transition back to work safely, and open channels of communication between all parties, including the physicians.
With the study’s new findings, perhaps the successes of such policies as outlined there will be improved, ensuring that injured employees can return to work as quickly and comfortably as their health allows.