Return to Work: Creating an Effective Program

DMEC Staff@Work

Return to Work: Creating an Effective Program For Any Type of Absence

Effective Return to Work ProgramBy Sonja R. Teague, CPDM

VP Integrated Absence
Management
ESIS

Given all the leave options available, it’s no surprise that in the last 10 years, an average of 2.7 million U.S. employees missed work each month due to an illness, injury, or to attend a medical appointment.1

As employers assess the impact of absence on their organization, they are looking for ways to help injured or ill employees safely stay at work or return to work as soon as they are medically able. This reduces absence costs and turnover as employees stay engaged with the workplace. Return-to-work (RTW) programs have been used for decades to reduce the duration and costs of absence from occupational injuries. Workers’ compensation studies show that RTW programs can reduce employee absence by an average of three to four weeks 2. Imagine the advantages for employers if that program is extended to all employee absence, regardless of the cause. An added benefit is that a good RTW program can also help avoid fines and boost employee engagement, morale, and productivity.

An effective RTW program requires up-front investment of time and resources, plus well-managed execution, to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Figure 1: The Cost of Absence by Category
Percentage Category
22.10% Total cost of direct and indirect absence as a percent of payroll
82% Employers that use overtime to cover employee absence
47% Amount of employee absences covered with overtime
29.50% Perceived employee productivity loss due to employee absence
15.70% Perceived supervisor productivity loss due to employee absence
50% Percent increase in voluntary turnover due to stress tied to absence
15.40% Direct cost of paid time off as a percent of payroll

Sources: Society for Human Resource Management, in collaboration with and commissioned by Kronos, Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences in the U.S. (2014) and Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences Across the United States, China, Australia, Europe, India, and Mexico (2014).

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