Counting Paper Clips Brings No Value
Over the past 24 years in insurance, I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of companies, and I’ve seen many different types of operations. I love walking into manufacturing plants and seeing how things are made! In my travels to these companies, I’ve reviewed several different types of Return to Work programs. In at least three of these companies, one of the light duty programs included a position where someone is responsible for counting paper clips. Basically, the light duty employee sat at a table and put paperclips in piles of one hundred, then put the one hundred paperclips in a plastic bag. I wish I could tell you that each of these companies were a paper clip manufacturer and the counting of the paper clips was a necessary function, but alas it wasn’t. One company made boxes, one was a temporary staffing company and the other was in healthcare.
All three of these companies had a passion for Return to Work and light duty. They all understood that one of the best ways to reduce the costs of a workers’ compensation claim was to get the injured employee back to work. The issue with all three of these companies: they didn’t have a variety of different jobs within their organization, so if the injury was severe, they didn’t have enough light duty positions. As a result, they made a position up – even if this position brought no value to the company whatsoever. Pretty extreme.
I’m not a proponent of these types of light duty positions. In fact, the one simple measure that I like to use to determine a worthy light duty role is, “Does the position bring at least some level value to your business beyond simply bringing the person back to work?” If the answer is no, then don’t use the position. What then? In my experience, when you want to bring people back to work through your light duty program but don’t have any jobs that fit their restrictions, look to a charitable organization. There are so many charities looking for people to help their cause. Almost all charitable organizations have volunteer positions that aren’t strenuous and can accommodate even the most restricted employee. It’s a wise business decision to get to know charities and not for profits that are located near manufacturing facilitates. Even if you’re only paying the person minimum wage, generally an insurance company will make up the difference so the employee is making the correct wage as dictated by the workers’ compensation law. Sending an injured employee to a charity definitely beats having them count paper clips!
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