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Have you experienced an injury preventing you from being at work?

Every year, millions of American workers experience an injury or illness that puts them at risk of leaving the workforce
1. When someone leaves the labor force due to an injury or illness, it can be detrimental for the worker, for their families, for employers and for the economy. According to the National Safety Council, it is estimated that the cost to the U.S. economy for work-related and non-work related injuries was $501 billion in 20152.

When an employee leaves the labor force because of an injury or illness, it can have adverse effects on their health, finances and quality of life. With early action and coordination, an injured worker can reengage in their daily work routine, regain their sense of purpose and social connections, retain valuable skills, and stabilize their financial situation. Being at work often plays a role in the recovery process
3, where a gradual resumption of normal job responsibilities can help you to build activity tolerance and personal confidence.

What is the RETAIN project?

RETAIN stands for Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network, and is a project funded under the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, in partnership with the Employment & Training Administration and the Social Security Administration. Connecticut and seven other states were awarded RETAIN grants in the fall of 2018 to create programs focused on stay-at-work (SAW)/return-to-work (RTW) strategies. These strategies are designed to help people who become ill or injured to remain in the labor force, which benefits the individuals themselves, their families, their employers, and the economy.

In Connecticut, individuals are eligible to be part of the pilot project if they have a work-related musculoskeletal injury, are insured under a workers compensation policy through The Hartford, and have a healthcare provider who is a certified RETAIN-CT provider. As part of the pilot program, RETAIN-CT providers are trained and encouraged to follow best practices in occupational health treatment, to talk with you and your employer about the nature of your job, to take advantage of return-to-work coordinator services if needed, and to individualize return-to-work recommendations if it becomes difficult for you to resume your normal job activities.

What if I’d like additional help to RTW, but am not eligible to receive services under the RETAIN pilot project? What are some things I can do to help my return to work, and who can help me?

  • Talk to your health care provider about your desire to return to work, and your concerns. Ask your provider to help you develop a RTW plan.
  • Ask your provider for help in communicating with your employer to begin planning for your return and discuss what accommodations or supports would be helpful, if any.
  • Learn about the cost of accommodations and how to request a reasonable accommodation. Be prepared with facts and resources to educate and assist in your transition back to work. Read the Job Accommodation Network’s (JAN) publication “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact.”
  • Work together with your employer to identify what you may need to help you get back to work quickly and productively. This may include requesting an accommodation.
  • Ask your insurer if they offer guidance and services to help your employer and/or help you return-to-work safely and productively i.e. worksite or ergonomic assessments.

What exactly is a RTW plan, and who can help me create a plan for myself?

In many cases of injury, workers are able to resume their normal job responsibilities with little or no lost work time or by using the kind of flexibility and leeway that your employer is already providing you as part of your usual job. In other cases, a safe and sustainable return to work may require more attention to your specific functional impairments, the physical and organizational demands of your job, and how to modify your work temporarily so you can gradually resume your usual work. Your healthcare provider may offer suggestions in the form of a RTW plan, where modified duty options are recommended to you, your employer, and your insurance company. Sometimes this will include specific medical activity restrictions at work to avoid re-injury and limit painful activities. Some employers, insurance companies, and clinical settings also offer the assistance of a RTW coordinator. Your first step should be to talk with your health care provider about the nature of your job, the kinds of work activities that are of greatest concern to you, and any opportunities that you see to change job expectations temporarily so you can return to work gradually. Unless your provider understands your concerns and knows something about the details of your job, it’s difficult for them to provide an individualized RTW plan to you and your employer.

Additional Information and Resources:

 

1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistic. Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities, Available online at https://www.bls.gov/iif/.
2 National Safety Council. 2017, “Injury Facts, 2017 Edition” Itasca, IL.
3Office of Disability Employment Policy, “Return to Work Toolkit for Employers and Employees” https://www.dol.gov/odep/return-to-work/


 

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