Getting the Employee Back to Work
By Kimberly Daise
Unfortunately, too many employers see a transitional duty program, also known as a return to work program as a “make work” situation for both the employer and the injured employee. This approach to a return to work program often ends in frustration for both employer and employee.
A successful return to work program is much more. Having the right return to work attitude, as well as understanding the various transitional work programs are the first steps to a successful program.
Alternate or Light Duty Programs
Alternate or light duty programs allow employees to work at less demanding jobs until they are physically able to resume their original work duties. For example, an employee who normally does physically demanding labor could work in a more sedentary capacity, such as answering telephones, marketing campaigns or assisting junior or new employees
Modified Duty Program
Here the injured employees’ original jobs are modified through engineering alterations of the workstation. Employers use these programs to prevent aggravation of the injury. For example, an employer could install a high raised desk. This could be used for an employee who cannot sit for long periods of time or for an employee with a back injury by adding seats with added back supports and foot rests to relieve discomfort.
“Work hardening” is the third type of transitional work program. In these programs, employees perform their usual job-related tasks in steps of increasing difficulty until they regain the physical ability needed to perform their original jobs. This allows the injured employee to remain at work, although at reduced hours.
Note: Design your back to Work Program to benefit both Employer and Employee.
During the return-to-work process, companies need to consider the employee’s physical limitations. If injured workers exceed their physical abilities, they may experience a recurrence of the injury causing unnecessary pain and suffering for the employee and needless additional workers’ compensation costs for their employers. Also, although employers can use transitional work programs for temporary illnesses and injuries, it is important to remember all absence and disability programs must be integrated with the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.