RETURN TO WORK

What are Return-To-Work Programmes?

Return-to-Work (RTW) programmes are company initiatives that focus on getting employees back to meaningful and productive work as soon as it is medically feasible for them to do so following an injury or illness.

RTW programmes are important because they

·      help companies increase productivity by reducing downtime due to extended sick leave

·      help ensure the stricken employees’ well-being because returning to work is one of the most effective types of therapy

Nature of RTW Programmes

RTW programmes are company-driven initiatives. The RTW programme and its processes must be owned by the company. It must take into account the company’s culture and how it goes about doing its business. Thus, there is no such thing as a generic, off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all RTW programme.

RTW programmes are also proactive in nature. Thus, it pre-empts long-term sick leave and deals with the issues as they develop. RTW programmes are not fire-fighting protocols

RTW programmes are also collaborative in nature and are not simply a tool for the Human Resource Department. This means it will take into account and balance the interests of all stakeholders i.e. HR, Safety and Health, shareholders, management, etc. In practice, this will be reflected in the overlap between statutory provisions, the company’s policy and the input from the Occupational Health doctor.

RTW First Steps

The first step in implementing a RTW programme is to draft an appropriate RTW Policy for the Company. This formal document, amongst other things, will include the programme’s purpose, scope and methodology. The RTW policy will also set-up a specific RTW Committee and appoint the RTW Co-ordinator. The RTW co-ordinator and the RTW Committee will be responsible for driving the RTW programme.

In conjunction with the RTW Policy, the Company must also develop a List of Modified Duties. This is an inventory of alternate duties that an employee who has been is struck by an illness or injury might be re-assigned to do in the context of the RTW programme. The List of Modified Duties is not simply a list of ‘light duties’. Ideally, it is a list of alternate duties designed to address the employee’s limitations, but at the same time, provide him with work that will meaningfully contribute to the company.

The final step in putting into place a RTW policy is the appointment of a Review Medical Officer. The Review Medical Officer is a medically qualified professional (usually an Occupational Health doctor) whose role is to review the Individualised RTW Plans submitted by the RTW Committee and make the appropriate recommendations thereupon.

Typical RTW Workflow (Simplified)

When the RTW Co-ordinator detects that an extended sick leave is a possibility, he will convene a RTW Committee meeting that will include the employee. Together with employee, the RTW Committee will develop an Individualised RTW Plan for the employee.

The RTW will submit the Individualised RTW plan to the Review Medical Officer. Based on the facts of the case, the Review Medical officer will make his recommendations. This recommendations may take the following form

1.     Immediate return to normal duties notwithstanding any existing medical certificate (subject to Employment Act 1955)

2.     Re-assignment to Modified Duties which might include rehabilitation therapy and medical treatment (notwithstanding any existing medicate certificate, but subject to Employment Act 1955)

3.     To continue medical leave accorded by any existing medical certificate, but might include additional rehabilitation therapy and/or medical treatment.

Conclusion/Summary

Return-to-Work (RTW) programmes are company initiatives that focus on getting employees back to meaningful and productive work as soon as it is medically feasible for them to do so following an injury or illness.

RTW Programmes are company-driven and company-owned initiatives that are both proactive and collaborative. The cornerstone of any RTW programme is the RTW Policy and the List of Modified Duties. The key players in the RTW programme Co-ordinator, the RTW Committee and the Review Medical Officer.

RTW programmes are important because, in essence, they help companies increase productivity by reducing downtime due to extended sick leave and also help ensure the stricken employees’ well-being because returning to work is one of the most effective types of therapy.

RTW Consulting Service

Penawar offers consulting services to companies interested in implementing RTW programmes. The scope of this service will be to assist clients in producing their

1.     RTW Policy

2.     RTW Handbook

The main tasks relating to this service will be

·      to consult the Company with regards the salient features of generic RTW programme

·      to customise the client’s RTW policy by reviewing policy parameters as supplied by the client and by making recommendations as necessary

·      to draft the RTW policy document for the client

·      to customise the client’s RTW processes and procedures reviewing processes and procedures as supplied by the client and by making recommendations as necessary

·      to draft the clients RTW Handbook

The financial consideration for this service shall be RM7,500.00 (Ringgit: seven thousand five hundred only)

If you need assistance in developing a RTW Programme that is right for your company, please call Sofian (016 7176324) or you can email him at sofian@penawargroup.com


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