About the Study
In 2017, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to fund contractor Abt Associates to conduct the Stay at Work/Return to Work (SAW/RTW) Models and Strategy Study. The study aims to document and expand the knowledge base of SAW/RTW strategies and identify promising models and best practices. The final study also includes evaluation design options, which could be implemented to build on and add to the evidence produced.
This Department of Labor-funded study was a result of the annual process to determine the Department’s research priorities. It contributes to the labor evidence-base to inform employment and training programs and policies and addresses Departmental strategic goals and priorities.
- Synthesis of Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Programs, Models, Efforts, and Definitions (Final Report, December 2020)
A description of programs that were operating in the U.S. in 2018.
- Synthesis of Evidence about Stay-at-Work/ Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) and Related Programs (Final Report, December 2020)
A synthesis of evidence published between 2008 and 2018 on the effects of SAW/RTW or related programs on employment and the receipt of federal disability benefits.
- Early Intervention Pathway Map and Population Profiles (Final Report, December 2020)
An analysis of public data to estimate the characteristics of the SAW/RTW target population and examine pathways from illness/injury to federal disability benefits as a way to identify opportunities for intervention.
- Evaluation Design Options Report (Final Report, December 2020)
Five options for new research to build evidence about the target populations for SAW/RTW and to test the effects of interventions on employment outcomes.
- Findings in Brief (Summary Brief, December 2020)
A summary of information about the study, the process, and findings from each report.
- What current promising programs exist? What programs have been validated?
- What are the important pathways of workers from injury, illness, or disability to SSDI application and receipt?
- What are the characteristics of target populations that might benefit from SAW/RTW strategies, interventions, and services, especially those who may apply for or enter SSDI?
- What options exist to build the research evidence in this area? Which strategies are promising, and how could these be evaluated?
- The SAW/RTW programs in the U.S. that were identified in this study differ in the components or services they offer, their administrative context, the timing of intervention, the target population served, and the stakeholders involved, but there are common themes. The most common SAW/RTW program component identified in this project is information-based services. More than 90 percent of programs provide at least one of three services: information, accommodations, or financial incentives.
- There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of SAW/RTW interventions. Most studies identified that offer credible evidence of impact were conducted outside the U.S. and not generalizable to a broad U.S. context. There are promising findings but meta-analytic review found few stable patterns in how impacts vary with disability type or program component.
- This project developed five strategies to expand evidence on effective SAW/RTW interventions.
- Three strategies focus on providing targeted information to workers, employers, and medical professionals to help improve employment outcomes. Each of these groups plays an integral role in the SAW/RTW process. However, these groups may lack critical information to make choices or policies that encourage continued work.
- One strategy is to test the impact of financial incentives by providing temporary disability insurance partial benefits to workers who are unable to work due to a medical condition. Partial payments may increase incentives to work, because workers can continue receiving part of their benefit while working part-time.
- Identifying workers at risk of exiting employment or the labor force because of an injury or illness and determining when to intervene are major challenges for SAW/RTW programs. One strategy developed by this project is to construct a new data source that would match nationally representative data to administrative records to support descriptive analyses of the target population.
Epstein, Z., Wood, M., Grosz, M., Prenovitz, S., Nichols, A. (2020). Abt Associates. Synthesis of Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Programs, Models, Efforts, and Definitions. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Nichols, A., Geyer, J., Grosz, M., Epstein, Z., Wood, M. (2020). Abt Associates. Synthesis of Evidence about Stay-at-Work/ Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) and Related Programs. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Nichols, A., Dastrup, E., Epstein, Z., Wood, M. (2020). Abt Associates. Data Analysis for Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Models and Strategies Project: Early Intervention Pathway Map and Population Profiles. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Nichols, A., Grosz, M., Prenovitz, S., Gubits, D., Wood, M., Stuart, J.B., Epstein, Z., Sierks, C. (2020) Abt Associates. Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAWRTW) Models and Strategies Evaluation Design Options Report. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
Epstein, Z., Wood, M., Prenovitz, S., Nichols, A. (2020). Abt Associates. Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Models and Strategies: Findings in Brief. Chief Evaluation Office, U.S. Department of Labor.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.