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 workforce1.
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 process3,
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
- 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
- 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:
Job Accommodation Network
CT Tech Act Project
Return to Work Toolkit: Resources for Employees
CT State Employees' Workers' Compensation Return to Work Program
CT Workers’ Compensation Commission Information Packet
The Hartford: Return-to-Work/Stay-at-Work & ADA Resources
Dept. of Rehabilitation Services: Workers’ Rehabilitation Services
1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of
Labor Statistic. Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities, Available online
2 National Safety Council. 2017, “Injury Facts, 2017 Edition”
3Office of Disability Employment Policy, “Return to Work
Toolkit for Employers and Employees”