Here's the bottom line - Return to Work has no place in workers' compensation.
Note: This system is called workers' COMPENSATION.
It is NOT called workers' Return to Work.
All of the conversation in work comp about RTW is Bovine Excrement.
There, I said it. And I'll repeat to make sure you understand: RTW is Bovine Excrement in the context of workers' compensation.
Sure, there is some merit in RTW programs - I'm not attacking that. The fact is that IF you can get the injured worker back to work faster then there are great benefits for both the worker and the employer.
But somewhere along the way in the world of risk management we got steered toward thinking that the end all, be all outcome for a workers' compensation case is RTW.
It isn't and neither you, nor I, nor anyone else can do anything about it.
Because RTW requires two elements that do not necessarily and in fact typically don't align: a worker who WANTS to and CAN go back to work AND an employer who WANTS that worker back.
Both elements are requisite and they must occur simultaneously - there can be no RTW UNLESS both elements are present at the same time.
What are the motivations? We can not control the feelings of either the employer or the employee. We can not control why an employee may not want to work for a certain supervisor or company. We can not control why an employer, a supervisor, or whomever makes the decision, does or does not want an employee any longer.
I am reminded of a case that I had written about before involving a United Airlines mechanic. Vern had all sorts of workers' compensation issues, but most of all his issue was psychological (or perhaps psychiatric). Regardless, he felt that the people at United Airlines were out to get him. And the management at United felt that Vern was dangerous and didn't want him around any longer lest he create an even greater risk.
|Working at UAL|
While an extreme example, it is obvious that any attempt at an RTW program would be completely wasted on Vern.
I'm not saying that RTW programs are useless or don't have a place in workers' compensation, but the conversations I've observed over the past decade or so focusing on the job of RTW are misplaced. RTW is NOT the job of workers' compensation.
Again, it is workers' COMPENSATION. I don't like the term "workers' compensation" because it directs attention to money, but regardless, it does describe what the system really is all about when you really get down to it - money to workers for either medical treatment or just to give out money in some sort of organized (not necessarily logical) manner.
In the workers' compensation industry we have a singular job: provide medical treatment and money.
Yep, RTW can reduce the money part of the equation, and maybe a part of the treatment equation. But RTW is a compensation reduction technique. It is not the end goal of the game. It is only one element in a complex equation that we use to determine what the allocation of resources will be.
In the end our job is all about COMPENSATION. It is wealth redistribution on a basic scale, if you will.
Flame me. I'm fine with that. Then ask yourself how many times dedicated RTW programs have actually resulted in someone returning to work and staying there.
There's a reason why California got rid of vocational rehabilitation, and then RTW bonuses/incentives and penalties tied to permanent disability indemnity - because they don't work.
Use your RTW program discriminatingly. Subjecting everyone to that process is a waste of time and resources.
Flog me now...