Skip to content

Return to Work Program: What Is It and Who Does It Help?

When organizations find ways to support their employees through challenging times and provide stability with re-entry into the workforce with a return to work program, it can make that transition much easier for staff. The employee can come back confidently to their role and it deepens loyalty long-term.

While it's common to take a few years off from an intensive or full-time career to care for an ill loved one, go back to school, travel, or grow your family, this article will focus on employee programs for those who left work due to an injury. It'll delve into what a return to work program is, the benefits to employees, and how to manage it internally to make it a success.

What Is a Return to Work Program?

A return to work program (RTW) involves implementing a plan (usually about a six-month length) to help an injured employee return to work once they've recovered. Eligibility requirements will vary depending on each company and may be based on the employee's tenure.

The RTW program is slightly different from a returnship program aimed at helping those who have chosen to take a career break (for the reasons mentioned above) reintegrate into the workplace. However, the goals are similar: to provide a supportive employee experience.

What Are Some Benefits of Return to Work Programs? 

The benefits of a re-entry program are two-fold for both the employee and the employer. Here are just a few:

The Benefits of a Return to Work Program for Employee

  • Socializing: Maintaining social ties helps an injured worker return to familiar faces after a prolonged period away from work.
  • Financial stability: Since the employee often receives only a portion of their salary while away, it can provide financial relief to skip the job search and return to their regular job with lighter job duties and their typical wage.
  • Strong employee morale: Since the pandemic, feeling supported at work is a strong theme. It's a crucial asset when employees know they'll be accommodated with time off to heal and ease back into their position.

The Benefits of a Return to Work Program for Employers

  • Retain skilled workers: By mentoring injured workers and easing them back into the work environment, there's a higher probability they will stick with the company.
  • Lower turnover rates: Providing this intermediary return to work program means that workers can return quicker and alleviates having to backfill the position or hire a temp.
  • Strengthen employee relations: This is critical to every organization in today's climate. Ensuring your employees have what they need sends the message that you're there for them.
  • Lower workers' compensation costs: When workers return to work part-time, it reduces the number of benefits they will claim, positively affecting costs associated with the workers' compensation insurance.
  • Discourage abuse: It's not pleasant to think about, but sometimes there can be opportunists who take advantage of these policies. A well-organized return to work program shows your staff that you're on top of things and can help to deter abuse.
  • Promote employee confidence: It can be scary to return to work after an injury. Knowing that reasonable accommodation will be made for their return can help employees grow the confidence that translates into better quality work and long-term loyalty.

6 Steps to an Employee-Centric Return to Work Program

Return to work program: 2 people happily working together

The proper process can make a world of difference when an employee is in need. Here are the steps to take when walking your employee through their return to work:

  1. Contact the staff member: As soon as you hear of their injury, contact them to explain the workers' compensation benefits and answer any questions they might have about the form. You can provide some details about the return to work program and find a cadence for keeping in touch during their recovery.
  2. Outline the essential duties: Understand the limits their condition might create to their regular job. Consider what might not be possible until the employee has recuperated. This forethought is essential for both parties to feel comfortable moving forward with the return to work program.
  3. Flesh out all possible restrictions: Gather the required information and recommendations from their physician to further eliminate any duties or activities that would hinder their progress during recovery.
  4. Create a list of accommodations: Look into accommodations that can make the employee's return to work more comfortable. Examples of reasonable accommodations might include an ergonomic desk setup, a convenient parking space that's closer to the entrance of the building, or flexible work hours.
  5. Make an offer: Make the employee an official offer for their regular job with added accommodations or another position that would be better suited to their circumstances.
  6. Monitor their progress and pivot as required: Communication will be the make or break of this process. Make sure you provide solid details in writing to the employee outlining your return to work plan. Stay open to modifying aspects of the program as things evolve with the employee feedback.

Pulpstream's Supportive Tools Help to Fill the Gaps

Organizing a return to work program can feel overwhelming if you're a small business without a human resources department.

In addition to the resources available on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, it's also a good idea to reach out to the insurance company responsible for your worker's compensation policy.

Additionally, use an automated platform like Pulpstream to help make the process less stressful. A streamlined support system can benefit your return to work program in several ways. Here are just a few:

  • Increased visibility and accountability: Pulpstream facilitates smooth communication from the first compensation claim to their start date post-injury.
  • Logic-drive workflows that adapt: The software adapts to the scenarios as they happen without clunky or time-consuming manual updates.
  • Integrations that work with your tools: Pulpstream wants to add value, not reinvent the wheel! The purposeful design integrates with your native apps like DocuSign, SMS, and email. These integrations are seamless and code-free.
  • Cohesive case management: Access all the pertinent details to the employee's case and streamline tasks at your fingertips.

Pulpstream offers flexible and supportive tools that enhance your return to work program with:

  • Organized, secure, and unlimited access from all devices
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Comprehensive communication and data-driven dashboards
  • White glove customer service

These features come alive when you request a free demo with one of our specialists, who can walk you through the benefits.

Help Your Team Comfortably Return to Work

Pulpstream homepage

Every person on the team will appreciate the considerate flexibility and support that a return to work program can offer them. Your HR team will especially enjoy using Pulpstream to make it happen more quickly and effectively. 

For employees returning to work, the opportunity to ease in and feel connected to the team while also regaining financial stability after an accident is something that will cement their loyalty.

We can help to make this process more manageable by offering supportive tools that help to make the transition smooth. Download the free guide to learn how Pulpstream's no-code platform can enhance your return to work program.