New York business owners got some good news from the state’s Department of Financial Services in July. After facing a potential double-digit increase in New York workers’ compensation insurance premiums, and after four successive years of rate hikes, New York workers’ compensation rates will decline 1.2 percent.
That’s the good news.
While any relief is welcome, the bad news is that New York employers still pay the highest surcharge on workers’ compensation premiums in the nation – nearly five times more than other states according to the annual study conducted by the Workers’ Compensation Policy Institute in Latham, N.Y. And with medical and litigation expenses continuing to rise and add a significant burden to claims costs, you still face daunting challenges to reduce your overallNew York workers’ compensation costs.
That’s why you need to be diligent about taking advantage of every opportunity to reduce business insurance costs and protect your bottom line. One way to do that is by having a strong return to work program for your injured workers.
Every day an injured employee is off work is costing you money. In fact, the annual cost of absence for businesses nationwide is estimated at $100 billion according to Liberty Mutual’s April 2011 report, “The Missing Piece of Absence Management: Turning Data into Dollars.” And according to the 2010 Edition of the National Safety Council Injury Facts, more than 100 million days are lost due to injuries.
With those kinds of numbers, you can see that it’s imperative to return your injured workers to work as soon as possible.
So what return-to-work options can you offer your employees?
A formalized transitional work program is key to a successful return to work strategy, and there are several options for transitioning your injured workers back to productive employment:
Transitional job. If your injured employee has restrictions that keep them from performing their regular full duty work, offer them a temporary transitional or light-duty position that their healthcare provider agrees they can perform during their recovery until they reach medical stability or have permanent restrictions imposed.
Modified work. Find a way to accommodate your injured worker’s physical restrictions by adjusting or altering the way their job is usually performed, such as changing lifting requirements or altering equipment.
Part-time work. Until the employee’s doctor releases them to full time work, you may be able to offer part-time work, gradually increasing the employee’s hours and variety of tasks they perform as approved by the doctor.
Alternative work. Is there an entirely different job in your company that meets your injured worker’s physical restrictions as specified by their healthcare provider? Look at existing jobs, but also consider creating a set of job tasks for work you need done that nobody else is handling.
Permanent alternative jobs. If an employee’s injury precludes them from ever returning to their previous position, offer them a permanent alternative or modified position within the restrictions specified by their healthcare provider.
Having a robust return-to-work program in place is a proven way to reduce your New York workers’ compensation costs, protect you from lawsuits resulting from regulatory noncompliance, and boost your profitability. But more importantly, it can give your injured employee a sense of job security, boost their morale and productivity, and shift their mental focus from “disability” to “ability.”