Effectiveness of Workplace-based Disability Management Programs on Promoting RTW

In the spring of 2013, the Institute for Work & Health reported on a Systematic Review conducted and published by the Campbell Collaboration in late 2012.  The research revealed interesting findings as to whether employer-provided disability management programs are effective in promoting workers’ return to work following work- or non-work related injuries or illnesses.  The researchers searched 12 databases between 1948 and July 2010 looking for studies that exclusively examined workplace-based disability management programs and not programs from third party sources such as workers’ compensation service providers.  The Campbell Collaboration ultimately included 13 studies in its review which was too few to be able to draw conclusions on workplace-based disability management program effectiveness for RTW or which program components were most effective in RTW promotion.

Nonetheless, close examination of the various workplace-based disability management program components revealed factors that can be helpful to disability managers, employers, policy makers, and other stakeholders.  The employer-provided disability management programs:

Mainly focused on the off-work and pre-return phases of RTW, paid very little attention to the post-return phase and no focus on work sustainability after return;
Provided a number of policies and practices (15 components were most common; see table); http://www.iwh.on.ca/at-work/72/do-workplace-disability-management-programs-promote-return-to-work
Mainly managed musculoskeletal disorders; only two addressed common mental health issues such as stress and depression;
Included a multidisciplinary team of professionals from various corporate departments;
Were administered internally with senior management support and a joint labour-management committee, and;
Relied on costs savings, time lost from work and time until RTW as outcome measures with little or no emphasis on work-role functioning, job satisfaction, well-being and job retention (Institute for Work & Health, 2013).

Read the Campbell Collaboration’s full report and share your thoughts.