Elements of a return-to-work program for injured workers

Employers and employees in North Carolina could benefit from a formal return-to-work program designed to give injured workers the opportunity to heal and return to productivity. The creation of such a program, which has been promoted by some pundits, would include ideas from employees and clear information about reporting workplace injuries.

When employees know how to inform their employers about a workplace injury, delays in care can be avoided. Once the injury is reported, the company's insurance adjuster can open a claim and pay for the employee's medical care. Employees who need to take time off to recover could expect to receive a workers' compensation benefit of about 70 to 75 percent of their pay.

Although recovery time is important, a prolonged absence of over 12 months can reduce the chances of an employee ever returning to work by 50 percent. The program should inform people that returning to a job can be a positive experience that speeds the healing process. An employer should also be willing to accommodate a recovering worker with modified or light duties. During an employee's leave, the employer should reach out to the worker regularly. All of these efforts could allow a company to retain productive employees and limit the costs produced by injured employees.

Although these best practices could reduce burdens on employers and workers, not every person has an easy time accessing workers' compensation benefits. If a person works for a company that is hostile to reported injuries, then that worker might ask an attorney for assistance. A lawyer might be able to obtain the insurance policy documentation and prepare an injury report. Communications with an insurance company could also be handled by an attorney. In some cases, a lawsuit might need to be prepared in order to pursue an adequate settlement.

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