Expanding RTW Programs to Prevent Injury and Absence Among Older Workers
By Sonja Teague, ARM, AIC, CPDM
VP, Integrated Absence Management
Effective absence management solutions include stay-at-work (SAW) and return-to-work (RTW) programs offering transitional duty or alternative work accommodations after an injury has occurred. Helping employees continue to work while they complete their recovery can shorten or eliminate the need for disability leave, which may help organizations reduce costs, maintain productivity, and keep valuable employees engaged.
Employers can also use these programs proactively to help prevent injuries, especially among older employees who may struggle with the physical demands of a job. Expanding the use of SAW and RTW programs can help employers retain — and maintain the productivity of — valuable older staff members whose knowledge and experience is important to the company’s success.
The Impact of the Aging Workforce
Baby Boomers (born from 1946 through 1964) are projected to still make up 25% of the workforce by 2028. Some may decide to remain in the workforce because of a lack of retirement savings, whereas some may simply enjoy their work and choose to postpone retirement.
Retaining older workers can keep knowledgeable, valued talent available to the organization. But it can also drive up costs for workers’ compensation and short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) claims, and increase absence durations. Older workers make up 23% of the workplace but file 28% of the STD claims and 42% of the LTD claims.1 Older workers also experience a rate of STD-to-LTD claim conversion that is three times that of Millennials and twice that of Generation X. When that is translated to days away from work, injured workers who are over 65 can take twice as long to return to work as younger employees.2
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