Topic Overview: Making the Case for Transitional Duty

Overcoming Common Myths and Resistance to Transitional Duty Work (Return to Work/Modified Duty)

Accommodating medical restrictions can help keep employees at work while they heal from a workplace injury and transition back to their regular job duties. Some employers may feel apprehension to accommodate these medical restrictions. Here are a few common concerns we hear:

“Employees on restrictions might harm themselves making their injury worse.”
The medical provider will provide guidelines on what the physical restrictions are and guidelines that need to be followed. Employers need to enforce these restrictions to avoid risk of future injury. Our experience indicates that employees heal faster when they remain at work and stay connected to their employer, colleagues and work environment.

“We don’t have any light duty jobs at our company.”
Developing a pre-determined list of potential transitional duty jobs takes the headache out of finding transitional duty jobs when employees return from a medical provider with medical restrictions. Our Loss Control team can assist by touring your workplace and helping create a list of jobs that can be used to accommodate typical medical restrictions. Often supervisors have a host of jobs or projects they always have wanted to get done, but never have the time or staffing to accomplish; these can be placed onto the job bank list.

“The injured employee may not be able to transition into an office setting to do the modified work job tasks.”
Our system looks to keep the employee at or near their regular job as the first option. Often a job consists of various job tasks, some of which could be done by the employee on a temporary basis while they heal. Frequently called “light,” “alternative,” “transitional” or “modified duty” programs, the common goal of each is to accommodate the restrictions so that the employee can remain at work sharing the experience and knowledge, keep the employee in their normal routine and control claims costs. When developing job task lists, we will look first to the job tasks of their regular job that they can still perform, and then to other jobs or departments if needed. It’s a system that incrementally transitions the employee back to their regular job duties

“The work restrictions don’t allow them to work an eight-hour shift or the employee has physical therapy three times a week — offering transitional duty will not work in these cases.”
Our Claims team will work with medical providers to understand the specific injury restrictions and can help outline a transitional duty program that works. In some cases, the employee may start by working two or four hours per day for the first period and then gradually build up to a full shift. The key is to keep the employee within their normal routine of reporting to work rather than developing other routines if they were kept off of work.


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