With the ever-changing leave practices and obligations of organizations across the country, it remains critical for your business to manage not only appropriate and compliant employment practices to support workforce absences, but also how these employees return to the workforce. Managing the risk associated with an employee who returns to work as a risk to further injury to themselves or others can be challenging. Exposure to workers’ compensation liability and other risks in the workplace can be avoided by developing and implementing a clear and consistent practice around how an employee is permitted to return to work after an injury or illness that has them out of work for a specific period.
The foundation for a return to work program is your job description and physical demands of the position. This documentation becomes the fundamental information necessary to an attending physician to determine when an employee can return to work without restrictions or accommodations. As an employer, you want to ensure you provide the employee and their attending physician adequate information to make an informed decision. Similarly, you will be well served to establish a policy and procedure describing how to return to work, what the requirements are such as documentation and communication, and who is the primary liaison for the business to facilitate the return. Training and refresher communications are beneficial and effective to inform the workforce and develop a consistent practice. Review your policies and procedures periodically to ensure they remain compliant with current legislation.