When an individual is injured on the job, it is critical for that person to receive the medical care he or she needs and to be allowed time to recover. Employers, always concerned about the costs of workplace injury on employee productivity, are keen to get injured workers back into the workplace. The time it takes an injured worker to recover, though, does not always allow for a quick return to work.
According to a recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, injured workers in Illinois are actually more likely to take longer periods of time off work than injured workers in surrounding states. The report highlighted that total temporary disability claims in Illinois last an average of 18.4 weeks, whereas the average is 15.7 weeks in Michigan, 11.6 weeks in Iowa, 10.9 weeks in Wisconsin, and 10.5 weeks in Indiana.
Some say the difference in periods of time off work is driven by bad workers’ compensation policies reduce low wage earners’ financial incentive to go back to work and which increase physicians financial incentive to prescribe more medications. The accuracy of these claims needs to be further investigated, and there are likely other causes at play. If true, addressing the problems will have to be done by tweaking workers’ compensation policy.
Injured workers, of course, have certain rights under workers’ compensation law, and it is important that employers honor those rights. This includes not attempting to force injured workers to return to work before they are able, and not retaliating against them for exercising their legal rights.
In our next post, we’ll pick up on this issue.