Boca Raton, Florida (PressExposure) April 14, 2009 -- National Return to Work Week is an opportunity for everyone involved in the workers compensation and disability management process to demonstrate their commitment to helping injured, disabled or ill employees stay-at-work or return-to-work. This week highlights the importance of employee retention and employee ability. What can the employee do? Verses what they can not do - Disability does not mean no ability.
âThe stakes have never been higherâ said Margaret Spence, founder of National Return to Work Week. âEvery day we hear disturbing information about layoffs and downsizing â when companyâs layoff employees, what happens to employees who are injured on the job or have illness that prevent them from find new employment. What do we do with these individuals? Are they just forgotten?â
Annually, 4.1 million employees sustain occupational injury or illness â 1.2 million have lost work days directly related to their injury or illness. Employees who are off work for more than sixteen weeks seldom return to the workforce. Employees with permanent work related disabilities are more likely to become unemployable. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 14.0 percent according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy. These statistics prompted, Margaret Spence to submit National Return to Work Week to Chaseâs Calendar of Events last April, to her surprise it was accepted and added to the 2009 Calendar.
From a Workers Compensation standpoint â when employees are injured in the workforce there is a monetary reward mindset, a feeling that money is better than a job. This is the only system that rewards employees to stop working â even when they are capable of returning to some employment. âWe allow people to join the ranks of the unemployed for the price of a pick up truckâ says Spence.
While most employees who are injured immediately return to work and continue their regular job â there are far too many who we settle out of the system. These employees either move on to a new employer, sometimes repeating the cycle, or they move to the ranks of the unemployed. There is also another subset that move into the Social Security System and become permanently disabled â adding a new burden to an already over taxed system.
From a non-work related disability standpoint â once an employee becomes eligible for long term disability, there may be few options to help the employee return to gainful employment or to encourage the employer to explore job or task modifications that would allow the employee to return to work in some capacity.
âAre there other options? says Spence. âWhy canât we make an effort to implement return to work programs that retain injured or ill employees rather than discarding them from the workforce?â she added âeven in a challenging economic environment return to work programs are vital. Employers are not conducting a thorough evaluation of the long-term cost of workers compensation and disability coverage in their termination or retention decisions. Many companies may emerge from the economic downturn is dire financial situations because of the decisions they are making about ill, injured or disabled employees today.â
National Return to Work Week 2009 will bring together employers, employees, treating physicians, vocational experts, insurance, legal professionals and disability providers from around the country to share best practices and exchange information to increase return to work opportunities for ill, injured and disabled employees. Together we can highlight the importance of Return to Work, Stay at Work or Transitional Duty Programs.
The NRTWW Motto - Disability does not mean no ability â injured, ill and disabled employees should not be discarded from the workforce. Nor should we create a system that rewards and allows them to discard themselves from the workforce.
For details and more information about National Return to Work Week, becoming a partner, or participating in a our virtual conference, please visit http://www.nationalreturntoworkweek.org