Return to Work Statistics

Employee illness and injury scenarios are extremely costly for any business, and have the potential to be complicated and emotional – both for the employee, and for the employer. Besides the physical and emotional pain and struggle that the employee often faces, they also often suffer from prolonged earnings losses. Likewise, the employer faces the costs of reimbursing the employee, medical costs, making up for lost productivity, and sometimes companies face costly litigation.

Workplace injuries and other non-work related injuries and illness have the potential to impact any business, at any time. Being prepared for such an event will help both the employer and employee navigate these difficult scenarios. To understand just how many of these events affect businesses and employees nationwide, we’ve rounded up some of the most impactful return to work statistics.

Injured Workers and Lost Work Days

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2014 – resulting in the equivalent of 3.2 cases for every 100 full-time-equivalent employees. This number doesn’t include non-workplace related injuries and illness, making it clear just how many of these types of events occur each year.

Additionally, nearly 30% of employees that are injured on the job lose days from work. As an example, 1.1 million people suffered a workplace injury in 2008, resulting in over 8.5 million days of combined lost productivity throughout the U.S. This lost productivity has a direct impact on the employer, the employee, and the economy a whole

The severity of the injury or illness often has a direct impact on the number of days an employee will be out of work, and how much the injury or illness will cost the employee and employer. In general, the longer an employee is out of work, the more costs the employer will face in terms of lost production, hiring and training a replacement, and lost administrative time.

Employees Not Returning to Work

Adding insult to injury, the longer an employee is out of work as a result of an illness or injury, the less-likely they are to return to work. Studies suggest that when an employee is out of work for more than six months, they have less than a 50% chance of ever returning to work in any capacity.

The Impact of Return to Work Programs

The good news is that these studies also show that 80-90% of injured employees would rather return to work than collect disability. This is where return to work programs become especially important, bridging the gap between unemployment and the ability to successfully reenter the workplace.

According to the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, having a return to work program in place reduces the length of an injured employee’s absence by an average of 3.6 weeks. Even for an employee who faces a permanent disability, a return to work program reduces the average number of weeks out of work by 12.6 weeks.

Injured and disabled employees can often return to work sooner when the employer has alternative light-duty transitional work available, and makes physical accommodations as is necessary.

Catalyst Return to Work specialists can help your business navigate the return to work process, from the moment your employee is disabled, until they are successfully reintegrated into a long-term employment solution. Contact us today to learn more about TransitionALL®, our home-based modified-duty program.


Return to Work Training

In today’s ever-changing employment market, the demand for certain skill sets is directly correlated to the rapid pace of technology development, demographic shifts in the workforce population, and global economic cycles. For disabled employees who are preparing to return to the workforce, the change in the employment market can mean that there is a lack of job opportunities that directly match the employee’s skill set.

In these cases, alternative job opportunities may lead the employee to a related position, to an entirely new field, or even to a different industry – which often requires some specialized return to work training. Despite the need for extra training, injured employees looking to re-enter the workforce shouldn’t limit their options based on their skill set, and instead should consider their transferable skills that may be applied to occupations with higher labor demand.

By working with vocational consultants as a part of the return to work program, employees and employers can not only find the best employment fit, but obtain the training needed to make a successful transition into a long-term position.    

Vocational Consultants

A vocational consultant works with injured employees, lawyers, courts, public agencies, and employers as necessary to provide information about job opportunities, income potential, and loss of income due to a number of employment limitations (including physical, emotional, and educational limitations).

Labor Market Survey and Transferable Skills Analysis

Vocational consultants use tools like labor market surveys and transferable skills analysis to help successfully place return to work employees. A labor market survey identifies companies that hire the same occupation as the return to work employee within the local commuting area, while a transferable skills analysis compares an applicant’s skills set from his/her work experience with the job description of the position.

Return to Work Training and Job Development

Return to work employees who require specialized training have options, including home-based employment and on-the-job training to make the transition as smooth as possible for all parties.

On-the-job Training

Disabled employees who are beginning a new employment position on-site should receive proper and thorough on-the-job training. This training will encourage long-term success for the employee, and will aid in overall productivity and growth within the position.

Home-based Options

Home-based employment is more common than ever, and has been acknowledged as an ideal return-to-work solution in many cases. Because telecommuting eliminates the need to drive or take public transportation, and better accommodates disabled persons who need to manage doctor’s appointments and medication schedules, many employers now allow disabled employees to work from their homes. Studies suggests that not only does overall employee productivity increase when employees are permitted to work from home, but employers can also save on basic overhead costs and special accommodations.  

Find resources and learn more about return to work training here.

At CatalystRTW, our vocational consultants are dedicated to helping your business navigate the return to work process. Call us today at (866) 559-3200 to learn more about how we can assist with your case.


Customer Comment from Highmark Insurance

“I can say that the Catalyst services were a major reason that this claim settled.  And yes, the claim settled for less than what it otherwise would have had it not been for Catalyst.  I can say this: without Catalyst I would probably still have an open claim right now.  Claimant was unwilling to come to the negotiating table prior to Catalyst’s involvement.   That changed once a job offer was put on the table.

I’m a huge fan of your services.  And there is no doubt in my mind that Catalyst is saving our organization a lot of money.”

Russell Hardiman
Workers’ Compensation Analyst
HM Workers’ Compensation

Read more testimonials like this one.

Returning to Work Case Manager

When an employee is out of work due to injury or illness, the road back to employment can feel intimidating and overwhelming for both the employee and the employer, which is why it is crucial to have the right resources in place to facilitate the return to work process. A return to work case manager is an advocate for getting the employee back on their feet, and into the workplace. Effective and consistent communication between the work case manager, the place of employment, and the employee throughout the process is key to a successful return to work program.

Who are Return to Work Case Managers?

Here at CatalystRTW, our return to work case managers are highly trained professionals who have a passion for working with injured and disabled individuals who are seeking long-term employment. Returning to work case managers should be dedicated to maintaining integrity, while successfully breaking down the barriers that all too often keep disabled employees from returning to work. Compassion, determination, consistency, and communication are all key attributes of a dedicated return to work case manager.

Employers and employees alike should expect for a return to work case manager to hold degrees and/or certifications in one or more of the following areas: Business, Education, Psychology, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Social Work. Professional certifications like Commission for Case Managers (CCMs), Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor (CRCs), and Certification of Disability Management Specialists (CDMS’) are also preferred. Furthermore, at Catalyst RTW, many of our case managers have personal experience in overcoming a disabling illness and participation in return to work programs themselves.

What do Case Managers Do?

Return to work case managers work with employers to aid disabled employees in not only finding work, but to also ensure that the working conditions meet their individual needs and coordinate reasonable accommodations, provide resources and support for reintegration into the workplace, and offer follow-up support once the employee has been successfully placed.

These case managers facilitate the process of finding genuine work solutions that provide the disabled employee with options for long term professional growth. The return to work case manager is the linchpin to the return to work program, maintaining open and transparent communication between the employee and the employer throughout the process. Case managers must be exceptional at maintaining diplomacy and building relationships in an effort to create a successful and productive transition for all involved parties.

If you have questions regarding the role of return to work case managers or would like to know more about how Catalyst RTW can help your business navigate the return to work process, contact us today.


Returning to Work with Restrictions

When an employee is injured on the job, some employers believe that the employee should be completely healed and require no restrictions before being allowed to return to work. This practice is dangerous for employers, as it could result in a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Workers who are considered disabled are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace under the ADA. If an employer has a static policy of requiring all workers to be 100% healed before returning to work, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could view that policy as discrimination against an employee who could perform his or her essential job duties if they were given the proper accommodations. To avoid this type of lawsuit, employers should be prepared for injured employees who are cleared by their physician to return to work with restrictions.

At Catalyst RTW, we have been providing return to work solutions to companies across the country for over 10 years. Here are some of our most useful insights we’ve learned over the years:

Inform Health Care Providers of Essential Job Duties

Physicians and health care providers are often unaware of the workplace conditions and job duties related to individual positions. It is important to provide network physicians with information about the injured employee’s job, including the essential duties and demands of a typical day in that job.

This allows physicians to make informed decisions about the employee’s ability to perform each task and whether they are able to return to light duty work or their regular position with no restrictions.

Consider Light Duty/Alternate Duty Positions

Even before any injuries take place, it is helpful to consider and establish what types of positions can be adapted into light duty or alternate duty positions. If these light duty descriptions are available before a worker is injured, they can also be provided to the physician who can use them to determine whether the employee could perform that job during their recovery.

Provide Workplace Accommodations

If the employee is cleared to return to work with restrictions due to a disability, explore the accommodations that could allow that employee to perform their job. Under the ADA, this should be an interactive process with suggestions and investigation by the employer of all available and reasonable accommodations. If an accommodation suggested by the employee is not feasible, the employer should provide concrete reasons why (such as cost), document those reasons, and suggest an alternative.

Allowing injured employees to return to work with restrictions can be beneficial for both the employer and the employee, reducing lost time and keeping the individual engaged in the company. It is essential to understand the relevant workers’ compensation laws and ADA regulations; if necessary, speak with your legal counsel while developing job descriptions and light duty alternatives and while researching reasonable accommodations for disabled workers.

If you need assistance with your return to work program, or if you have a specific case in which an employee will be returning to work with restrictions, Catalyst RTW can help. Our TransitionALL program provides home or site-based modified duty work for employers who do not have a return to work program. TransitionALL is also available to those employers who do have a return to work program, but may need assistance with a special case. Contact us today with questions, or fill out our online form to receive a free evaluation of your workers’ compensation case.

What Are Indemnity Benefits in Workers’ Compensation?

When a worker is injured, each missed day of work represents lost wages. In workers’ compensation insurance, indemnity benefits are paid to the employee to help them cover their loss of income.

Indemnity benefit laws are determined on a state-by-state basis. Payments are a portion of the worker’s average weekly wage, and take into consideration the extent of the disability. Each state has its own rules about how to calculate the average weekly wage; for example, some states use the last 52 weeks of pay, while others use the last 13 weeks. There is a waiting period, often several days to a week, before any indemnity benefits will begin. State workers’ compensation boards also outline minimum and maximum indemnity benefits.

You can find your state’s workers’ compensation website on the U.S. Department of Labor’s State Workers’ Compensation Officials guide.

Types of Workers’ Compensation Indemnity Benefits

There are two main types of indemnity benefits, temporary and permanent, which are then further divided into two more subtypes, total and partial.


Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) is paid to workers who are medically cleared to return to work on a part time basis while they are healing from their injury. The worker would receive full payment for the hours worked each day, and receive TPD for the remainder of the hours not worked based on their original schedule. If a worker had an 8 hour shift but was able to work only 5 hours during their recovery, the TPD rate would apply to the remaining 3 hours.

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) applies to workers who are unable to work at all while they recover. Many states pay around two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage for TTD.


Permanent indemnity benefits apply to workers who become permanently disabled due to injury. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) is paid to workers who have recovered enough to return to some form of work, but will always have some form of partial disability.

When an individual is unable to return to any type of work after an injury, Permanent Total Disability (PTD) comes into play. In some states, death benefits paid to a worker’s dependents fall under PTD guidelines.

When choosing your company’s workers’ comp insurance, it is important to understand your state’s requirements for indemnity benefits.

If you need assistance with a workers’ comp claim, please fill out our free evaluation for workers’ compensation cases or give us a call at (866) 559-3200. Our vocational experts will be happy to discuss your case.


Light Duty Work

If you have injured employees, you may be considering light duty work to help them transition back into their job duties while they are healing. Light duty work can be an excellent way for employees to regain some productivity, and for employers to help reduce workers’ compensation claim costs. Before you offer any light or modified duty, there are some rules and guidelines you should know.

Know the Requirements Under FMLA and ADA

It is important to know what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) say about light duty positions. For example, the ADA makes it clear that employers are free to provide light duty work on only a temporary basis, and are not required to create permanent light duty positions.

Under the FMLA, employers can offer light duty work, but the employee always reserves the right to take FMLA instead and decline the position.

More generally regarding the types of leave available to injured employees, the ADA, FMLA, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act all touch on granting medical leave. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a fact sheet that covers FAQs about these three pieces of legislation such as who is covered, how they overlap, and definitions of terms.

For more information on these topics, check out the resources below:

Keep Job Descriptions Current

Maintaining a list of current and detailed job descriptions can be very helpful in establishing light duty positions and when an individual is fully cleared to return to work. These job descriptions should be provided to the physician caring for the injured worker, allowing him or her to see the daily tasks involved in the position and whether the worker is physically able to perform those tasks. Detailed job descriptions aid in the creation of light duty work as well, as management can easily determine which tasks can be modified or eliminated.

Formalize Your Light Duty Work Policy

If you are planning on keeping light duty positions temporary, then a general time frame should be outlined in a policy document. For example, in the Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance Sample Light Duty Work Program, they state:

“The duties available to the employee, with a written release for light-duty work by his/her attending physician, will be transitional and temporary in nature (90 days or discretion of management) designed to be both productive to the company and meaningful to the employee.”

These time frames can be adjusted on a case by case basis, but the policy clearly makes the case that the light duty position is not designed to be a permanent solution.


Workers’ Compensation Cost Control Techniques

In business insurance, workers’ compensation can be very costly. In addition to premiums, businesses may have to pay for additional medical treatments and extra wage replacements if claims go unresolved for long periods of time. After six months, it becomes more likely that the injured worker will never return to work.

We have collected several straightforward, easy-to-implement workers’ compensation cost control techniques that your business can use to help minimize costs and lost time due to workplace injury.

Appoint a Workers’ Compensation Manager

Designating a dedicated workers’ compensation case manager will help ensure that cases do not slip through the cracks. The manager would be responsible for submitting the proper documentation throughout the case, monitoring case progress, and liaising directly with the injured worker.

Enforce Detailed Reporting and Filing

Prompt and accurate reporting helps injured employees received medical attention faster, shortening their recovery time. It also reduces the possibility of fraud by keeping the details of the incident fresh in the minds of all parties involved. The workers’ compensation case manager can assist with enforcing reporting, but employees should also be aware that they are responsible for reporting their injuries in a timely manner.

Provide Information to Employees

While managers can monitor reporting and filing, each employee must be well informed about the company’s workers’ compensation policies.

Injury Reporting Procedures

Who should injuries be reported to? Within what time frame? These are important questions that need to be addressed. When employees know about these policies in advance, they will be less likely to feel overwhelmed or be afraid to ask what to do if an incident does occur.

List of In-Network Medical Providers

Utilizing in-network medical providers is essential to controlling workers’ compensation claim costs. Employees should be provided with a list of these preferred medical providers, which may have special occupational training designed to help them deal with workplace injuries.

Formalize Your Return to Work Program

Finally, helping injured workers return to work as soon as they are able will assist in cost control. This reduces lost work time and lost productivity caused by an employee on leave. If modified or light duty positions have already been considered, you can let physicians know the positions available to the injured employee, which will allow them to make well-informed decisions about when the employee can return to work.


Workers’ Compensation and Return to Work Programs

Workers’ compensation cases have the potential to grow into difficult, costly long term claims if they are not dealt with properly at the outset. Preparation is key for getting claims handled quickly. Some employees can feel overwhelmed by the workers compensation system, and they are unsure of the claim handling process and what steps should be taken.

Employers should establish an immediate line of communication with the injured worker, and keep them informed about how the claim is progressing and their in-network treatment options. One effective way that employers can be prepared for on-the-job injuries and workers compensation claims is to have an established Return to Work program or policy.

How Return to Work Programs Affect Workers’ Compensation

Return to Work programs can help decrease the time it takes to resolve a workers’ compensation claim. By having a set policy in place, it becomes less likely that a case could slip through the cracks because no one claimed responsibility to manage and monitor the claim.

The program also defines a clear process for the steps an employee should take if they do get injured on the job, as well as what managers should do when they receive an incident report. Return to Work programs can also provide guidelines for physicians that outline what the original job description involved and what modified duty options are available. This allows the physician to give an accurate assessment of when the employee can safely return to work.

Proactive RTW Policies Help Reduce Lost Time

One of the biggest costs to employers in workers’ compensation cases is the amount of lost time when an employee is injured. A proactive Return to Work program can help employees return to their jobs in modified or alternate duty, therefore decreasing the amount of lost time and investment needed to potentially train a new employee for the position.

Resources for Employers

There are many online resources available for employers regarding workers’ compensation and return to work programs.

– The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has compiled an extensive breakdown of Return to Work Programs, accommodation options, The Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and more:

– Business Insurance offers news and information to executives and business owners about risk management, workers’ compensation, and employee benefits, among other topics. This video is part of their Business Insurance In Focus series, and profiles Alternative Light Duty Programs.|309|70|92|329|304

– If you’re just getting started developing a Return to Work program for your company, take a look at our program template:

Resources for Employees

– The Department of Labor has created the Family and Medical Leave Act Employee Guide, an easy to understand brochure that addresses FMLA coverage and eligibility, communicating with emplooyers, and returning to work.

– JAN’s Employees’ Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) details how employees can go about requesting and negotiating workplace accommodations.


Return to Work Program Template

The best time to write a Return to Work Policy is before your company needs one. If your business has had injures in the past, or even if there have been no injuries yet, now is the perfect time to formalize your Return to Work Program in writing. We will explain what goes into a policy and provide you with specific guidelines for what needs to be addressed in the Return to Work Program.

What To Do Before Establishing the Return to Work Program

Before writing the policy, companies should appoint a team of employees, supervisors, and upper management to perform research on past injuries and determine alternate duty positions. Commitment from all levels of the organization will greatly assist in running the program smoothly.

In addition, each job where injuries have occurred or may occur should be analyzed. Are there any other safety protocols that could be implemented? Is the safety training adequate for the position? Feedback from current employees can help businesses keep their workplace as safe as possible and prevent injuries. These job analyses, which should describe the position’s tasks, work environment, education or training, and equipment used, are also helpful in identifying opportunities for light or alternate duty positions.


Return to Work Program Template

There are several components to a successful Return to Work Program. Clearly defining and communicating everyone’s roles is essential in helping injured workers receive the necessary treatment and return to work when medically feasible. Below we have created a template with an explanation for each section that employers can use to get started on their own program.


The policy should begin with the objective of the Return to Work Program. This typically involves getting injured workers proper medical treatment and minimizing the amount of time they are out of work.

Defined Roles & Responsibilities

Companies must specify who needs to be notified at different phases during the injury and treatment process. For every employee, supervisor, or contact person, list their duties and responsibilities. This ensures that workers always know where to turn if they get injured or have questions about the process while they are on leave.

Alternate Duty Definition

With the help of employees and supervisors, the main points of alternate duty should be defined. Although the specifics of alternate or modified duty will depend on the position, some factors will always apply. These include wages (will employees receive the same wage as their original position?), hours, accommodations available, and any other relevant HR policies.


The Procedures section of the policy describes the steps that injured employees and supervisors should take when an incident occurs. This includes items such as how the employee should report the incident (e.g., in writing to the designated supervisor or workers’ compensation contact person), the forms that the supervisor should complete, and how the employee should begin treatment with the preferred medical provider. After treatment, the procedures should explain the approval process for the injured employee to return to an alternate duty position or their original position, including items such as a physician evaluation form and alternate duty job description.

By involving employees throughout the company and writing a formalized Return to Work Policy, your company will help reduce lost time, wages, and productivity resulting from on-the-job injuries. Filling out the template above will provide a clear and concise reference for your employees. If you’d like to see Return to Work Program samples, click here to visit the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s website.

If you have a challenging workers’ compensation case or need help with your Return to Work Program, contact us or fill out our Referral Form.