Disabled worker in a group with other workers
March 30, 2022 Safety News

Modified Duty & Early Return to Work Saves Thousands

Your bottom line is affected the longer your injured employee is out of work and receiving workers’ compensation. As an employer, you can impact the number of disability days by providing modified duty work.

There are many reasons for delayed recovery and delayed return to work following a work-related injury:

  • Injured workers need time to heal, and there are different rates of recovery, pain thresholds, and psychosocial and cultural barriers.
  • Medical management can be complex.
  • There is an unfounded belief that employees should never return to work until they have fully recovered.  Yet, studies show that employees who return to modified duty actually recover faster!
  • Policyholders might not recognize the value in getting their injured worker back to modified duty work or might not participate in the return to work process.
  • The longer the employee is out of work, the less likely the person will ever return to work.

These factors can lead to poor claim outcomes, delayed recovery, delayed return to work (if at all), higher claim costs, and a higher experience modification rate (Emod). Emod is a standard measure set for each company by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) based on the company’s claim experience. The higher the Emod, the higher the cost of workers' compensation insurance for the policyholder. 

Modified Duty Can Influence Policy Premium Savings and the Experience Modification Rate

As the policyholder, one of the best options available to prevent an escalating Emod and rising workers’ compensation policy premiums is to reduce claim costs. The recommended strategy for this is to establish and design a modified duty, return-to-work program. A modified duty program encourages injured employees to safely return to work at the earliest opportunity while allowing them to earn wages while they recover from the injury.

Early Return to Work with Modified Duty is Your Single Best Option to Manage Claim Costs

Early return-to-work programs lower claim costs, as indicated in the graphic below. The graphic depicts a serious, one-year open claim with the policy premium savings spread out over three years. It represents an injured worker who returns to modified duty at any point of the claim, for example at 2 weeks, 3 months, or 6 months. And although claim costs increase over three years, they are ultimately reduced and policy premium savings are realized. The three-year policy savings can be significant for certain size companies under ideal conditions, with the potential for three-year savings in the tens of thousands of dollars. Policy premium savings are realized when the insurance company is spared from paying all lost time wages, thus keeping claims costs low. 



Lower Your Experience Modification Rate and Return Employees to Work Sooner with Modified Duty

Maintaining a low Emod directly correlates with early return-to-work programs, claim cost reduction, and policy premium savings as depicted in the graphic below. In this example, for a serious one-year open claim, it is reasonable to expect an Emod increase with or without modified duty because of the totality of the claim costs. In simple terms, claim costs include both wages and medical expenses. However, since claim costs are reduced when the injured worker returns to modified duty, the company would anticipate a lower Emod. The reason for the lower Emod is that, when the injured worker earns modified duty wages, the policyholder not the insurance company pays the worker. The bottom line is, the earlier the return to work, the lower the claim costs, the lower the Emod, and the greater the overall savings. To learn more about how the Emod is calculated, contact your agent or underwriter. 



Reduce Impact of Worklessness on Employees

There are emotional and physical benefits to the employee when they return to work sooner after an injury. Prolonged worklessness is known to adversely impact both the injured worker and employer in different ways. As for the injured worker, lost time from work can effectuate financial hardship resulting in high-stress levels, loss of control, and fear. Other known detrimental byproducts of worklessness often include a lack of physical activity, altered daily routines, depression, strained relationships, and altered sleep patterns. Ergonomic evaluations help to mitigate these negative biosocial and psychosocial stressors often associated with being out of work.

Likewise, employers are not immune from the deleterious effects of what is often considered preventable, prolonged, worklessness. Some of the negative effects of prolonged worklessness include the temporary and/or permanent loss of workers, retraining costs, increased workers’ compensation premiums, production loss, and more. Ergonomic evaluations help to address these unfavorable effects on the employer by addressing lost time from work.

Why You Need a Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program

According to Jennifer Christian, MD, MPH, FACOEM, board-certified occupational medicine physician and President of Webility Corporation, “When work disruption begins, it can be both effective and cost-beneficial to have a coordinator help the individual, treating physician, and employer communicate and focus everyone’s attention on maximizing recovery, restoring function, accommodating irreversible losses, and making plans for how the individual can keep working, return to work, or quickly find a more appropriate job". 

Components in a Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program

Did you know that your actions as a supervisor can positively influence whether your employees will return to work in a timely manner? 

Additionally, a comprehensive Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program is comprised of having modified duty job descriptions prepared for your employees before they are injured. Consider it a proactive approach to getting the injured worker back to work. Beacon’s ergonomic team can perform ergonomic assessments of your available jobs and help develop the Job Requirements Forms to send to medical providers.

The team can also help facilitate a diagnosis-specific return to work plan after the injury has occurred. By devising a plan, the injured worker can get back to work as soon as medically feasible to decrease the financial risk for both the policyholder and employee, all the while ensuring the continuity of gainful employment and a thriving workforce.

Another component of the program is to utilize the Preferred Provider Network (PPN) at the time of the work injury. The PPN is a list of medical providers who are skilled and knowledgeable in workers’ compensation. The PPN is available on beaconmutual.com.

Developing Your Program

Beacon Mutual has a dedicated team of physical therapists, ergonomists, and disability case managers who are dedicated to helping companies develop, and have in place, a Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program before an injury happens. Furthermore, the team is ready to help execute these plans to best serve the employers and the injured workers.

Our Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program will help you develop the physical requirements of the job and a job description which includes the duties, amount of weight lifting needed, time spent standing or walking, and other information about the job.  Once developed, the program will benefit the employer and their employees.

To learn more about developing a Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program at your workplace, you can read about the program in more detail, register for an upcoming workshop about the program, or contact us

Read Program Details

Beacon Mutual
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Beacon Mutual

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