Since 2007, we’ve offered Transition2Work® nationwide as a supplement to workers’ compensation return-to-work programs nationwide. By placing injured workers at local nonprofit organizations to perform light duty work when their employer cannot accommodate their physical restrictions on-site, the program provides benefits to the injured worker, company, and the community.
Those same benefits our workers’ compensation clients already realize — costs savings, reduced claim duration, and helping injured workers get back to work quickly while making a positive contribution to their community — also extend to non-occupational disability claims.
Additionally, including non-occupational injuries in a comprehensive return-to-work program is good practice. Policies and procedures that require injured employees to be completely free of restrictions before returning to work or do not treat occupational and non-occupational disabilities similarly by offering temporary transitional duty risk violating ADAAA guidelines. Employers can help ensure they are ADAAA compliant by offering reasonable accommodation for all injured employees, regardless of how the employee is injured.
Caring Companies = Engaged Employees
Clients who are already using Transition2Work for their Integrated Disability programs are experiencing excellent results, including positive feedback from their employees, which is a defining factor for any successful return-to-work program.
Employees at a company with a strong return-to-work program enjoy the certainty of knowing what will happen if they are injured and that their company is committed to retaining them if they are injured whether on-the-job or off. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows that employees who know their company is committed to their health and recovery take a more active role in their own health needs. By being an advocate for the employee, companies create the biggest advocate for an employee’s recovery – themselves. Employees who are actively involved in their recovery process recover faster and suffer less from psycho-social issues.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990 and amended in 2008, prohibits discrimination based on disability. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would pose undue hardship.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has broadened the definition of disability under the ADAAA (ADA Amendments Act of 2008) which increased the number of employees who are entitled to accommodations. The ADAAA requires employers who have 15 or more employees to assess accommodations for any employee who may need them regardless of whether the disability arose from a work or non-work related injury or illness.
A program that does not offer transitional duty to all employees risks violating the ADAAA unless they have a legitimate business reason for doing so. Noncompliance with these guidelines can lead to increased litigation. For example, in 2009 the EEOC found Jewel-Osco violated the ADAAA by prohibiting disabled employees from participating in the company’s 90-day light duty program if they were not injured on the job.
Cost Savings for Both Employee and Employer
Non-occupational injury costs are much greater for employers than costs under workers’ compensation.
Robert Wilson, president & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, said, “A study done a number of years ago in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan revealed that the costs for employers for non-occupational injuries was something in the order of ten times greater than their occupationally caused counterparts.”
Peter Rousmaniere, a columnist for the Workers’ Compensation Institute, points out that, “On a per capita basis, the total health and wage replacement costs come to about $5,000 per worker per year. Compare that to the per capita costs of workers’ comp benefits of the American worker, which is around $500 (that is, when you divide the entire workers’ comp benefit bill by the total number of employees).”
Whether an employee was injured on-the-job or off, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the likelihood of an injured employee returning to work decreases from 90% during the first month, to just 50% after 6 months. After a year, the likelihood drops down to 5%.
An injured employee who is provided with the ability to transition back to their regular position can save a company thousands of dollars just by returning to work. A paper from the Center for American Progress reviewed 30 case studies in 11 research papers that provided estimates of the cost of turnover and found that businesses on average spend about one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to replace that worker. Costs include the cost of hiring, onboarding and training, and cost of time while the position is unfilled.
By incorporating non-occupational injuries into a comprehensive return-to-work program, employers can save in the long-term. Effective return-to-work programs can lessen the need to replace employees, lower employee turnover, and reduce associated costs with new hires such as recruitment, hiring, and onboarding. Companies also show that they care about their employees and that they have an avenue to attract, and more importantly, retain talented, valued employees.
For employees, this means a weekend softball injury won’t jeopardize their position and the opportunity to participate in temporary transitional duty, with their physician’s approval, may get them back to work and earning income faster.
This information is made available for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.