In last week’s blog, I explained that the path to a better workers’ compensation system begins with getting past the political arguments. I am convinced that better informing workers about how the system should work will greatly improve both public policy discussions and the claims process.
Injured workers can be tempted to stay home from work as long as possible. I suspect they do not realize the long-term implications of unnecessarily being off work too long.
Before I make the case for return-to-work for injured workers, I want to state very clearly that I am in no way suggesting that injured employees work hurt. This is inhumane and can lead to possible re-injury, which can make a claim much more complicated than necessary. Injured workers need to know that returning to work as soon as medically feasible is in their best interest in the long term.
Studies have shown that the longer an employee is away from work, the less likely they are to return. One concluded that after 12 weeks, injured workers have only a 50 percent chance of returning to work and by one year, potential for gainful employment drops to less than 2 percent.
There is just something about work that gives people meaning. When I was an outreach worker to senior citizens in my teens, I saw retirees die unnecessarily early because they did not find meaningful activity after retirement. I remembered asking an African-American woman in her 90s who was born before 1900 how she lived so long despite all she had been through. She said she always made sure she had work to do.
Let your employer know you want to come back to work
as soon as it is OK with your doctor.
Absence costs workers in several ways. Consider the disruptions in family life and schedules and restrictions from pleasurable activities, such as hobbies or sports. Finding another job in the current economic market may also prove to be difficult.
Workers can be adversely affected psychologically when they are not working and do not feel like productive members of society. For 20 years my father loaded trucks for a living. When he sustained soft tissue back injuries and did not return to work, he didn’t feel like a man because he could not provide for his family. Prior to this he never missed a day of work, but ended up on social security disability. He died about 12 years after filing for workers’ compensation.
What can workers do?
1) Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to take advantage of workers’ compensation and enjoy the time off from work. While it appears to be a break in the short-term, it really isn’t worth it.
2) Let your employer know you want to come back to work as soon as it is OK with your doctor.
3) Help your employer find ways you can work.
4) Are you eligible for telework? If so, make it known that your willing to work remotely.
5) Contact your company’s Employee Assistance Program to find out other ways you and your family can get support.
And if your employer does not help you return to work, focus on looking for work elsewhere. You want to work for people who care.
My hope is that this blog will inspire injured workers to take an active part in the process. I also hope it encourages employers and system professionals to help educate injured workers. What else should injured workers know? Please share in the comments section.
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