Most people understand why long-term disability (LTD) insurance is an important employee benefit. Employees who experience accidents or illnesses that prevent them from working should be able to focus on their recovery, not their expenses. But robust LTD coverage can also include another important benefit: a return-to-work program that helps employees stay engaged with their jobs and reintegrate when they’re ready to come back.
What’s a return-to-work program?
Many employees who have experienced interruptions in work due to a disability can and do return to the workforce when given the opportunity. Return-to-work programs provide the steps and resources necessary to successfully return employees to full- or part-time status. These steps may include:
- Changing the employee’s job location.
- Revising the employee’s work hours or schedule.
- Restructuring the employee’s job duties or tasks.
- Providing adaptive equipment and/or worksite accommodations.
- Transferring the employee to a more suitable position in the company.
- Enabling a telecommuting option for the employee.
- Transitioning the employee gradually from part-time to full-time work.
The insurance provider, through their vocational resource, brings the assistance and expertise needed to guide the employee and employer through these steps and, hopefully, get the employee back on the path to successful employment.
The value of return-to-work programs
Return-to-work programs are clearly valuable to the employee by potentially shortening their disability leave and helping them return to employment and financial independence. But these programs provide important benefits to the employer as well. The employee may be highly valued by the company for their skills and knowledge, and they can maintain their skills by returning to work sooner or in a part-time transition. By returning an existing employee, employers also save on recruiting and training costs for replacement employees, and they may end up paying less in LTD claims.
A return-to-work success story
Here’s an example of the partnership between employer, employee and provider in action.
A Symetra LTD case manager learned that one of our employer customers was making modifications to an LTD claimant’s workstation to accommodate the employee’s return to work. The case manager recognized that our LTD policy includes a “Workplace Modification Benefit,” which reimburses employers for modifications that allow LTD claimants to return to work. After reviewing the modification, Symetra proactively worked with the employer to help fund the modification and assist the employee in a successful return.
Turning a negative into a positive
A serious health event can be difficult for employees and employers to navigate, but an experienced provider and a well-thought-out and proactive return-to-work program can help turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one for everyone involved.
For a deeper dive into return-to-work programs, see the “Back On the Job” edition of our Inside Track educational series.