Research/studies Recordkeeping Return to work

What makes a return-to-work program effective? Report offers perspectives

Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Boca Raton, FL — Management commitment, communication and the setting of clear expectations are common elements of successful return-to-work programs for injured employees, according to a new report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

NCCI interviewed three employers – a health care system based in Colorado, a school district in Texas, and a construction and transportation infrastructure maintenance company in Alaska – to learn about their experiences with their respective return-to-work program, along with opportunities and challenges each face.


The report synthesizes the perspectives, along with those gathered from previous interviews with insurers, into several key attributes of successful RTW programs:

  • Management commitment needs to be foundational within the employer’s culture. Communication of this commitment builds trust between employees and management.
  • Communication and setting clear expectations are key both before and after an injury occurs.
  • Involved medical providers must understand occupational injuries and RTW programs.
  • The employer having a single source of contact to coordinate the RTW program for the injured worker, insurer and medical providers is beneficial.
  • The employer should create and maintain an inventory of light-duty or transitional tasks.

“The purpose of the workers’ compensation system is to provide a means of support for employees injured on the job, as well as for their families,” the report states. “Keeping injured workers on the job post-injury, in some meaningful capacity, retaining their dignity and pride, and ultimately returning them to full-duty purposeful work, is truly the ultimate success story.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)