Disability in America is increasing at an alarming rate, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Those receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) rose in 1985 from 2.2 percent of US adults age 25 to 64 to 4.1 percent in 2005. This may not seem alarming, but the National Bureau reports in the past two decades, the percentage of total Social Security dollars spent by SSDI rose from 10 percent to 17 percent.
The cited study predicts the SSDI rolls will grow to almost seven percent of non-elderly adults, an increase of 70 percent over 2010 enrollment rates. The National Bureau is no conservative think tank railing about this issue; it publically calls for “reducing the attractiveness of DI benefits for work-capable disabled individuals by providing additional access to public health insurance.” SSDI recipients, after two years, receive Medicare, a big factor those who apply for SSDI do so, many experts believe.
Those who manage work-related injury disability understand the need to return injured employees to the workplace quickly after an accident. They agree the longer the delay in returning injured employees to work in some capacity after an injury, the greater the chances of ever returning the injured worker to employment.
A return-to-work policy is more important today than ever before. Today, employees with a broader range of physical impairment much more easily qualify for protection under the new Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, injuries expected to last longer than six months, according to recent guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, qualify for protection under the ADA. This means telling an employee “You can’t come back until you are 100 percent” may open the door to an employment claim.
A return-to-work policy that provides temporary modified duty to injured and ill employees benefits both the worker and the employer.
Benefits of Modified Duty to the Employer
- Modified duty may open the door to more insurance markets for your business. Some carriers will not write your business without a modified duty program.
- A properly managed policy will significantly decrease your experience modification factor, lowering your insurance premiums.
- It tells employees that your organization will not tolerate malingering.
- It dramatically cuts indirect costs of an injury: overtime, hiring temporary workers, production reductions.
- It increases employee morale. No employee likes to carry the burden for an absent worker for long.
Employees who might never return to work after an injury will come back, decreasing the need to train new workers or losing their intellectual capacity.
It reduces your risk of an employment claim for violating the ADA or other employment laws.
Benefits of Modified Duty to the Employee
- Employees want to feel valued. Helping them through a disability shows that you value them as an employee and as a person.
- Employees who remain off work focus increasingly on pain and become alienated from the workforce. A speedy return helps defeat depression.
- Employees usually receive less pay than if working, losing opportunities for overtime and advancement. Returning to work improves the employee’s economic outlook.
- Back at work, your employee remains a fundamental part of your workforce and preserves important skills when still working. Once off work, memories fade and innovations may decrease an injured employee’s value to your organization.