Return to Work

How to Help Your Employee and Your Bottom Line

Accidents can occur in even the safest work environments. When they do, the best action an employer can take is to safely return the injured worker to productivity as soon as possible. The worker will be better off—and the ultimate cost of the claim can be significantly lower.

Performing light duty tasks while recovering.

Employees unable to perform their usual duties may be able to handle modified work, or “light duty,” while they recover. Light duty can be assigned on either a full- or part-time basis. Workers on part-time light duty may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which your claims representative can explain.

With the success of return-to-work programs and their low cost, New Mexico Mutual encourages businesses of all sizes to establish programs of their own. Here are some tips for getting started.

Setting Up Your Program

  • Develop job descriptions for each position in your business, or use existing job descriptions if you have them. Include the essential functions and physical demands for each position.
     

    Job descriptions are important. They help healthcare providers determine 1) whether an injured employee can return to work, 2) when the return should occur and 3) what types of work the employee will be able to perform. 

  • Create a list of jobs with lower physical demands that recovering workers should be able to handle. 
     
  • Communicate with your employees about the program. Let them know that they will come back to work in a modified position if they become injured. Present the return-to-work policy as part of your company’s benefit package.

What to Do After an Injury

  • Keep the lines of communication open with your employee from the time the injury is reported through completion of the return-to-work process.
  • Let your claims representative know that you can provide light duty, and be clear about which restrictions you can accommodate.
  • When making a light-duty job offer to your employee, do so in writing and be specific. List the restrictions that will be accommodated and describe the modified job that you are offering.
  • Be positive and flexible. Emphasize what your employee is able to do, rather than focusing on the employee’s restrictions.
  • Ask your recovering employee to help identify the work that the employee will be able to perform.
  • Maintain contact with the employee after the return to work.
  • Return employees to their regular jobs as soon as the treating provider issues a release to perform that level of work.

The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration also provides return-to-work resources for employers. You can browse or download them here.