You’re in the hospital with a prolonged illness. Or, you’re at home recuperating from a severe injury. If you’re lucky you might have a short-term disability or emergency savings to help with expenses. But, eventually, you’re going to have to go back to work. Are you prepared to return? Does your employer have a plan ease you back into the workforce, or will you simply be thrown to the proverbial sharks?
If your employer doesn’t have an established return to work program, chances are the answers to the previous questions are both “No.” In this article, we’ll detail what a return to work program is and what benefits these programs bring to both employers and employees.
What’s a Return to Work Program?
A return to work program is a plan established by a business to help reintegrate employees who have been away from work, back into the organization. These programs also help employers better control the total impact and cost of employees being away from work. Employees who’ve experienced an illness or injury, or are new parents, are all prime candidates for a return to work plan.
What are the Benefits for an Employer?
1. Improved Employee Engagement
The first benefit of a return to work program, for an employer, is improved employee engagement. When employees have a concrete plan to return to work, they’re better able to prepare and ready themselves for their return. Additionally, knowing they have the support of management, via a return to work plan, empowers employees and boosts engagement.
2. Proactive Cost Containment
A return to work program can help a business anticipate and control costs associated with workers leaving and returning. For example, if you have an employee out of work due to an injury, not bringing a worker back can add thousands of dollars to their workers’ comp claim. Consequently, the higher the claim, the more your company’s premiums will increase.
Utilizing a return to work plan helps you bring workers back into the fold quicker than what would otherwise be possible.
3. Reduce Turnover
The longer a worker is out of work, the less likely they are to return to work at all. So, without a return to work program, it becomes increasingly likely your missing employees don’t return. An employee who’s out of work for six months has less than a 50 percent chance of returning to gainful employment. And, if this lost time reaches one year, the chances of successfully returning to work drops to 10 percent.
Businesses can use a return to work program to avoid turnover from employees who have to miss a significant amount of work. These programs keep employees in contact with the company. Maintaining contact with absent staff keeps them more engaged with the organization and more prepared to return when able.
4. Reduce Costs Associated with Turnover
Return to work programs help employees get back to the workplace more quickly than they would on their own. As your business returns employees promptly to work, you can avoid costs associated with hiring and training temporary or permanent replacements.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement. A return to work program can help your company mitigate these costs.
5. Employer and Employee Alignment
The final benefit a return to work plan offers your organization is improved employer and employee alignment. When your business can align its values with its employees’ values, it enhances both employee engagement and satisfaction. A return to work program demonstrates your company values and supports its staff.
What are the Benefits for an Employee?
1. Better Morale
If you sustain an injury, the last thing you want to think about is whether you’ll still have a job by the time you’re healed. A return to work program allows employees to feel safe knowing their employer will facilitate their return once they’re ready. Utilizing a return to work plan can decrease employee stress, which boosts overall team morale.
2. Improved Chance of Returning to Work
As previously stated, the evidence indicates that employees who leave work have a significant chance of never returning to gainful employment. A return to work plan can help employees return earlier than they otherwise would have. And, the longer an employee remains absent, the less likely they are to ever work again. So, a return to work plan helps speed up an employee’s return but also increases the chances they return at all.
3. Sustain Social Connections
Many people spend more time with coworkers than most others in their life. Because we spend around 40 hours a week with these people, they frequently become more than colleagues. Being forced from the workplace due to an illness, injury, or pregnancy can sever these social connections and isolate an individual.
A return to work plan can help employees stay connected the workplace and their coworkers. Similarly, these programs, and coming back to work, can give a person a more clear and a defined sense of purpose.
4. Build a Sense of Security and Stability
A return to work program can ensure a missing employee retains his or her position at their company. The more assurances a worker has, the more secure they’ll feel about leaving. In turn, these employees are more likely to return because they know exactly what they’ll be returning to. Without a return to work plan, your staff doesn’t have a sense of stability that is vital for employees.
5. Reduce Your Company’s Gender Pay Disparity
One of the biggest drivers behind the gender pay disparity is motherhood, especially in America. The United States ranks last out of 41 developed countries in the government-supported time off for new parents. As of 2017, only 15 percent of U.S. workers received any paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The first step for improving the gender pay gap in your business is to offer paid parental leave. To reduce the motherhood penalty, it’s imperative that both mothers and fathers take parental leave. Maternal leave is a positive benefit but can work to further the motherhood penalty that exists in America.
But, a return to work program is also critical for ensuring working mothers retain their full earning capacity. Giving new mother’s a defined path for returning to work allows them to ease back into their jobs without being overwhelmed or lost.
Chances are you personally have experienced or know someone who has been through a serious illness, injury, or the birth/adoption of a child. Return to work programs give employees experiencing any of the above situations, a chance to reintegrate into the workplace in a controlled setting, with a plan.