Factors Influencing Return to Work for Injured Workers: Lessons from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

By Sharon E. Belton

November 1, 2011 Related Topics: Outcomes for Injured Workers, Return to Work

Identifying the features of workers’ compensation systems that promote timely, safe, and sustainable return to work and those that create barriers to return to work can lead to win-win opportunities for both injured workers and employers. This report uses a case study approach and semi-structured interviews with more than 75 experts in the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin workers’ compensation systems, including employers, insurers, labor representatives, attorneys, medical providers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and state government officials.

For this study, we focused our state expert interviews on the return-to-work process for injured workers who have been out of work for three months or more—whom we define as longer-term unemployed injured workers. Most of the system experts interviewed for this study indicated that, in their experience, the vast majority of injured workers are highly motivated to return to work after an injury and experience little difficulty in returning to work.

However, longer-term unemployed injured workers face particular challenges in returning to work—challenges that are even greater in the context of the economic downturn.

Factors Influencing Return to Work for Injured Workers: Lessons from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Sharon E. Belton. November 2011.  WC-11-39. 

 

Copyright: WCRI

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Research Questions:

  1. Which workers' compensation system features facilitate return to work for longer-term unemployed injured workers? Which serve as barriers to return to work for these workers?
  2. Which workers' compensation system features facilitate return to work for longer-term unemployed injured workers?
  3. How has the recent economic downturn magnified or diminished the impact these system features have on return to work for these workers?
  4. What are the policy implications of these system features on return to work for longer-term unemployed injured workers affected by the recent economic downturn? 

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