Incident Report Software >> Return to work plan
Published 04/07/2023

What is a return to work plan? Setup, Guide and Tips

Return to Work Plan A return to work plan is a formal program developed to help injured workers to stay at work or safely return to their duties before the injury. Its main objective is to design a simple process for the injured workers to safely and efficiently get back to work very soon.

A return to work (RTW) plan outlines the various steps to be taken by the organization's stakeholders after injuries occur. Workers are less likely to return to work after a long stay away from their jobs. Therefore, most organizations create proactive plans to reduce the impacts caused by worker injuries to the overall operations of the organization. It may also be required if someone has extended sick leave and you want to ensure they transition back into the workplace effectively and successfully.

The return to work plan might be one supporting part and workflow of an overall Incident Report System or Injury Management System

Returning back to work after a long period of time can be stressful for employees. That's why it's important to have a well-organized return to work plan in place. It provides a structure for the managers and supervisors so they know how best to acclimate the employee back into his/her role within the company.

When creating your return to work plan, there are some essential elements you should consider including: job functions, product/service knowledge, culture and expectations, safety protocols, training expectations and communication processes. Having these laid out clearly from the start will help ensure the employee is comfortable with their duties and knows exactly what is expected from them but in line with their capacity to work and suitable work duties they can perform.

Ultimately, having a thorough return to work plan in place will enable your company to quickly re-onboard team members and make sure everyone feels at home in their environment and comfortable back in their work duties. Creating such a plan also shows you respect your employees right to a safe working environment where they feel appreciated and supported by management.

Preparing a Return to Work Plan

If you've ever had an employee become injured on the job, then you know how difficult the process of returning them back to work can be. It requires careful thought and planning in order to ensure that the employee is able to return safely and without further injury or frustration. In this blog we will explain how to write an effective injury return-to-work plan that ensures your employees are taken care of while protecting your business from potential liability.

Creating a return-to-work plan is an important part of managing risk and providing a safe working environment for your team. This includes setting clear expectations and parameters around when an employee can return to work, what type of duties they should perform, and how long it's acceptable for them to be away from their job for recovery purposes. Additionally, having a well documented and researched plan will help protect your organization from potential legal issues related to the employee's injury or disability.

It's important that such plans are created with input from both parties - the employer, who will benefit from being able to keep their staff employed, as well as the employee who needs suitable accommodations in order to make sure they are able to effectively complete their duties without further harm or damage. Having all stakeholders involved in creating the plan is essential for ensuring everyone understands their role and responsibilities concerning an employee's return-to-work process. With these things in mind, it's time to get started writing up your own injury return-to-work plan!

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Return to work plan example

Here is an example Return to Work Plan template and the common fields you might include

Recommended work hours
Name of Supervisor
Employee Name
Employee Comments or Concerns
Plan Duration
RTW Plan Start Date
RTW Plan work duties
Restrictions or Changes
Description of Modified Work Duties
Action to Address Concerns

End Date
Plan Duration
RTW Plan Start Date
RTW Plan work duties
Restrictions or Changes
Description of Modified Work Duties
Action to Address Concerns

Example Return to Work Form

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What to include in a return to work plan

Generally, a return to work plan should include strategies and various assessment services to help a worker return to their normal employer or new employer after an injury has occurred. It should be perfectly designed as per the worker's needs.

Read more about why a return to work plan is important

A typical return to work plan should include:
- The return to work dates
- The review dates of the plan
- Goals of the RTW plan
- Objectives of the worker
- Signatures of the manager and the worker
- Period to meet the goals and objectives
- Any information concerning possible adjustments and the working arrangements

- Assessment services. Evaluating the abilities of the injured worker. It also entails assessing the worker's symptoms, earning capacity, transferable work skills, and psychological factors.
- Same employer. The worker remains at the former workplace they were employed before the injury occurred. Here they embark on their previous duties. It involves job task analysis, psychological case management, and work trials.
- New employer. There is a transition of the worker after an injury to a new employer. This involves the analysis of the transferable skills, labor market, and initial needs evaluation.

The ability of a worker to perform duties in the workplace is adversely affected by an injury or illness. It's in every employer's interest to return a worker to their duties in some capacity whenever they're losing time from work. This makes the return to work processes be the cornerstones of any integrated disabilities and absence management plans.

What makes a good return to work process?

The return to work process ensures that workers embark on their roles with the least disruption after they had taken some time off. Workplace-based programs are efficient in reduction of the costs of compensation and healthcare and length of work disability.

Getting back to work after a long period is usually a difficult event. A return to work plan should be developed after identifying all the reasonable adjustments and getting the necessary advice. Moreover, a good RTW process should match the goals of the employer.

For a return to work plan to be successful, consider aspects:
- The organization contacts the affected employee early during their injury leave absence
- Involvement of the return to work coordinator
- Ensure good support from supervisors
- The injured worker is assigned modified jobs that can accommodate his injuries
- Allows for ergonomic worksite visits
- Ensures workers have the right information concerning their rights and responsibilities in the return to work program
- All managers and supervisors are educated on ergonomics and safety upbringing
- The doctor or specialist taking care of the injured worker has the organization's contacts

How can you streamline your return to work process?

Ensuring safety in the workplace and preventing any kind of accidents is critical in the protection of workers and evading costly compensation claims. Although accidents are sudden, the actions you take thereafter greatly determine the impact on the organization and workers as well.

Use the tips below to develop an effective return to work plan that's cost-effective and reduces the time spent away from the job by the injured workers.
- Consider updating job descriptions to show all the physical requirements of a particular job
- Focus on modification of jobs or combination of tasks from other jobs before the worker returns to their former workspace
- Establish a relationship with medical care providers who facilitate the process. Workers get back to work on time when there's implemented medical arrangement in the process
- Involvement and engagement of the injured employee in the discussions concerning alternative works and education on the workers' compensation plans.
- Train the other workers who will work together with the injured employee so that they know the affected worker's tasks and how they can assist.
- Allow the recovering worker to slowly embark on their fulltime work. Don't rush them or else it will result in reinjures or a disgruntled.
- Be flexible and positive. Keeping positive attitudes towards the injured worker enhances the chances of positive results and appreciation by the other workers.
- Monitoring progress. The employee's progress should be tracked by the TPA or the insurer after returning to work, ensure all proper accommodations are established to favor the worker, and also identify and bring solutions for any arising issues.

The return to work program tends to make workers feel valued, appreciated, and listened to. Generally, it demonstrates the extent of your concern and investment towards their health and wellbeing, and also, it shows that the organization is ready to do whatever it takes to accommodate their needs. This RTW process is key to the reduction of staff turnover and facilitates the retention of the most experienced employees.

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