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Early Return-to-Work Programs
Benefit Employers and Employees

What is an Early Return-to-Work Program?

An Early Return-to-Work (ERTW) program is an important component in a workers' compensation Management Program, second only to an Accident Prevention Program.

Once an injury has occurred, the goal of an ERTW program should be to return the injured employee to work as quickly as possible. To accomplish that, the employee's job may have to be reevaluated considering the following two alternatives:

Modified Work: The employee returns to his original job, but some restrictions are placed on the job by the treating physician. Restrictions may include reducing the amount of work time, and/or restricting certain activities such as bending or lifting. Modified Work is also referred to as Light Duty.

Temporary Alternate Work:  The employee returns to work, but because the original job cannot be modified to conform to the physician's restrictions, he or she performs another job that accommodates the injured employee's abilities.

Studies conducted by Proficient Health & Rehabilitation Services, Inc., Wheaton, IL. found that delayed treatment for worker injuries can produce greater costs.

Likewise, early case management through time accountability and responsibility of all involved, including the employer, the employee, the claims administrator, and the providers, leads to just the opposite.

An Early Return-to-Work (ERTW) program is one element of a cost containment policy designed to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce the cost of workers’ compensation insurance.

ERTW is a concept dedicated to helping injured workers get back to work, providing them with temporary, modified jobs that take into consideration physical restrictions, skills, interests, and capabilities.

The purpose of this is to identify guidelines for the development and implementation of an effective ERTW Program, using a team approach involving claims, loss control, rehabilitation providers, and the employer’s human resources and safety departments. The team concept is critical in the success of the ERTW Program. The employer, claims administrator, rehabilitation specialist, and attending physician play important roles in the team approach.

What are the benefits of an ERTW program?


Benefits for Employers
  • Reduce workers' compensation insurance costs
  • Promotes good will and enhance corporate image
  • Reinforces the company's interest and concern for an injured employee
  • Allows active participation of management in the employee’s recovery
  • Reduces the disability associated with an injury and its related costs
  • Reduce costs associated with temporary or replacement workers
  • Reduce potential for litigation
  • Maintains an experienced work force

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