As the name implies, Return to Work (RTW) program is a plan created by a business to aide and
integrate injured workers back to their workplace. The aim is to return employees to their respective
workplace as soon as they are medically and physically fit. A well maintained RTW program provides
benefits to both the employer as well as the employee.
We Provide RTW Services : https://www.fitforwork.my/services/return-to-work/
Objective of RTW program
- To aide injured personnel with illnesses or diseases to return to work in a quick and safe manner
- To perform an employer's social responsibility towards an employee
- To maintain a supportive and positive working atmosphere by communicating and aiding employees
- To decrease the likelihood of repetitive accidents occurring at workplace
- To decrease the period of disability
- To accelerate the productivity of employees with disabilities via total replenishment of income
- Types of plans under RTW
- Pain management
- Limb therapy, sensory, speech therapy
- Physiotherapy , Occupational therapy
- Work place therapy
- Job placement
- Health education and employee safety
- Workplace assessment
- Skills training
- Employee aide devices and assistance
Hierarchy of RTW
The duration of each person involved in RTW is on case by case basis. Monitoring and coordination i s
usually over a 6 month period to ensure that the affected individual is able to perform the tasks and
maintain the job. Therefore the success of an RTW program is based on the following hierarchy:
- same job same employer
- similar job same employer
- different job same employer
- same job different employer
- similar job different employer
- different job different employer
Advantages of Return to work program
- Advantages to Employer :
– Maintain experienced workers
Injured employees that stay at home for a long period of time can become demotivated and
subsequently resign from their job. Hence employees can keep their valuable staff by motivating them
to return to work when they are physically able to do so.
– Decreased turnover
In certain industries where injuries and accident are common, staff turnover could lead to disruption of
daily work activities. By supporting and welcoming injured workers to workplace soon enough,
employers will avoid the cost of recruiting and re-training temporary or permanent new staff.
– Harmonious relations
A well planned return to work program implies that the employer as well as the top management show
empathy and concern regarding its workers and their immediate welfare
– Improved productivity
Upon developing an injury or illness, the total workforce of a company will be reduced. On the other
hand , any company with a successful RTW program will encourage it's workers to return to work
despite being unable to work at full capacity. This in in contrast to employees who would opt to rest at
– Keeping costs low
Employees who return to work after any injury may work full time or part time. This will lead to
decreased disability benefits as compared to being temporarily unemployed. On the other hand, an
effective RTW program will lower the worker & compensation costs.
- Advantages to Employee :
– Maintain social relations
By return to work as soon as their condition permits, a worker can prevent the feeling of social
deprivation. As soon as they are able to work, they gradually develop a sense of purpose in their daily
tasks at work.
– Financial Security
By implementing a proper RTW program, this enables an injured employee to keep his position in
the company. This in turn maintains his income, enabling him to fulfill his/ her financial obligations
– Skill Retention
Any skill developed at workplace needs to be applied consistently to maintain its worthiness. Similarly,
an RTW program helps the injured worker retain his/her skills always.
– Higher self esteem
Workers develop higher morale regarding the job position and financial security when they are aware
that their immediate employer will play an important role to enable them to return to work after
developing an occupational injury.
Photo Above : Sherbrooke Model
The Sherbrooke model incorporates the biophysical model and shifts from personal disease/biomedical models to person/ environment models within the return to work management.
Steps in RTW
- Key practices : To Identify and providing RTW services
Identify and providing services effectively
Practice 1 : Assess the return to work potential and needs
Practice 2 : Enable transitional employment opportunities that allow them to fit into workplace
Practice 3 : Apply case management method wherever necessary to aid employees
Practice 4 : Ensure the healthcare providers understand the job functions and limitations of the employee
- Key practices to provide incentives to return to work
Use suitable incentives
Practice 1 : Staggered cash benefits to allow disabled workers to re-enter workforce
Practice 2 : Provide medical benefits to disabled workers that return to work
Practice 3 : Apply a contractual clause that required disabled worker to collaborate with return to work opportunities
Steps for Return to Work Program
The aim of return to work program is to bring back an injured worker to their job as soon as possible. For the program to be effective, it should include written plans regarding the steps undertaken by the company from the time an injury occurs until the worker is back at work.
Contact the worker
Once an injury occurs, communicate with them directly. Aide them to complete compensation claim forms and explain the steps to receive the benefits. The worker needs to understand the company’s RTW scheme. It is vital for them to understand that they should not be rushed back to work until they are medically and physically fit.
Ascertain vital job functions
It is vital to identify functions that are essential to the job and that the employee is able to perform without any hindrance. The employee and employer should both have a mutual agreement. Any non- essential function should be postponed until the worker has fully recovered. As an example; a taxi driver should be able to drive the vehicle can collect fares from passengers. On the other hand, washing the taxi may sensible but it not vital to function as a driver.
Identify capabilities and restrictions
Information from an occupational health personnel e.g. doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, occupational health therapist can be used to determine the worker’s abilities. Similarly , any restrictive activities could also be taken into account.
Both employee and employer need to identify if accommodation is required or not and of which type. Examples include an ergonomic chair, working from home, a sit stand workstation, stair climbing hand truck. Many of these modifications do not cost much
Selecting an affordable accommodation
Provide the worker with and offer to return to work. If he/she is unable to return to their usual job with or without lodging facilities, provide them alternatives. This could mean another similar job, a lower level job or temporary jobs.
The accumulated costs linked with disabilities as a result of work related injuries are massive. Any employer can manage such costs proactively by constantly engaging injured employees and assisting them back to the workforce which they take time to recuperate. RTW program helps to keep costs to a minimum by decreasing direct costs linked with lost time injuries These include:
a. Increased disability payments
b. Increase insurance premium payments
c. Increased medical payments, and
d. Increased litigation fees
RTW program also successfully decreases many indirect costs such as lost man-hours, low self-esteem among staff, employee turnover and lost productivity
Inculcating a positive and vibrant work environment where every employee is appreciated for their contributions when they readily participate in their recovery and return to productivity has a two- pronged benefit; it lower the cost of risk by reducing the cost of insurance as well as guarding the profitability of the company by receiving and maintaining the optimum workforce.
We Provide RTW Services : https://www.fitforwork.my/services/return-to-work/
- Handbooks in Health, Work, and Disability – Izabela Z. Schultz, Robert J. Gatchel (eds.)
- Handbook of Return to Work_ From Research to Practice – Springer US (2016)