Explaining a return-to-work program

return-to-work program

A return-to-work program can play a vital role in your client’s safety program. As an insurance agent, you must explain why it could benefit the company. In today’s post, we will walk through the basics of what a return-to-work program is to help you explain it to your clients and prospects. The rest of this blog article is written as if it were directed to a business.

What is a return-to-work program?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 2.7 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2020. More than a third of those injuries resulted in employees missing time away from work. The average number of days away from work was 12. Therefore, getting an employee back to work is crucial.

Not all injured employees can return to work in the same capacity as before their injury or illness. A return-to-work program is vital in aiding employees back to work. They help to promote the healing process and reassure the worker by increasing their sense of job security. 

This program allows injured workers who cannot perform their usual job tasks to work in a limited or temporary “light-duty” capacity. Sometimes, this can mean having the employee perform office or administrative work. It might be wise to have the employee volunteer with a non-profit organization rather than work at the job site.

Benefits of a return-to-work program

There are numerous benefits to return-to-work programs for employers. They include:

  • Reduce WC claim costs
  • Maintain productivity
  • Improve employee morale
  • Resolve and close out claims faster
  • Encourage a positive safety culture

80-90% of injured employees would rather return to work than collect disability. In addition, studies suggest that when an injured employee is out of work for more than six months, the odds are more than 50/50 that they will never return to work at all. A return-to-work program can reduce the injured employee’s absence by more than three weeks.

Steps to create a return-to-work program

Step 1: Establish a Written Policy 

Business owners should develop a policy that reinforces the company’s commitment to returning injured employees to work as soon as possible. The program should outline the availability of modified duties and the benefits of returning to work quickly. This includes their income and keeping their skills sharp. The policy should also include information about the need for a return-to-work doctor’s note that details the employee’s physical limitations and restrictions.

Step 2: Develop a List of Light-Duty Job Descriptions

Light-duty work should be used as a transition and be short-term. This work should keep an employee engaged and valued during their recovery. The list can include administrative duties, organizing supplies, conducting a warehouse inventory, helping train other employees, or even volunteer work. Make sure to consult with the physician and your WC professional.

Step 3: Review the Job Description

Each permanent job description should be reviewed to ensure that the basic duties a worker must be able to perform are listed. Employers can modify these permanent descriptions to be light-duty – temporary jobs should an employee be injured. These temporary jobs should have a time limit since the goal is to get workers back to their permanent position while they recover.

Step 4: Create a RTW Agreement Form

Work with your WC carrier and agent to develop a RTW offer form that covers the following:

  • The start date of the restricted work
  • The hours of work
  • List the person who will supervise the employee
  • A deadline for the employee to accept the work

Important tip: continue to communicate with the employee throughout the process – during and after they have returned to work.


At Mod Advisor, we have many helpful resources you can give clients or prospects regarding a return-to-work program. Why? It shows you will go the extra mile. Here are a few resources in our library that talk about a return-to-work program: progress checklists, a sample letter to physicians, a sample job offer, etc. Please email us at [email protected] for more information.

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