The Benefits of Offering Modified Duty for Injured Workers

Carmen Sanchez | Jan 19, 2022 | minute read

injured-workerIn 2020, there were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries reported, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (COVID adjusted). Businesses in a range of industries are unable to provide light- or modified-duty accommodations, forcing injured workers to spend days, weeks, or even months at home recovering.

This extended time away from work can have severe consequences for both the employee (in terms of financial and emotional hardship) and the employer (in terms of increased claim costs and workers’ compensation premiums).

Furthermore, the United States Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics have estimated that the cost of absenteeism is more than $40 billion per year. Return-to-work (RTW) or Modified Duty (MD) programs can make it easier for an employee to return to work while recovering from a work-related injury.

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Employers who implement a light-duty program for employees with work-related injuries might want to consider doing the same for employees who have been sick or have impairments that aren’t relevant to their jobs.

Employers must take proactive steps to help injured workers return to work more quickly by implementing an effective return-to-work (RTW) - (MD) program while also minimizing the impact of injuries on their balance sheet.

According to government statistics, if an injured worker is off the job for more than six months, their possibilities of returning to work are drastically reduced. As a result, a Modified Duty Return-to-Work program should start as soon as possible and provide adequate physical, behavioral, and vocational tasks until the worker can return to full duty.

What Is Modified Duty?

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, light-duty refers to “temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less rigorous than standard job duties.” Employers can offer light-duty assignments to disabled employees who are unable to execute their vital functions, easing their return to a full-time schedule.

Of course, the activities available will vary depending on the medical limits of the worker and the demands of the company.

The Benefits of Offering Modified Duty for Injured Workers

Return to Work (RTW) programs rely heavily on light duty assignments. They provide flexible accommodations for injured workers or ill on the job. These modified duties are usually less rigorous, permitting injured workers to continue working while they recover.

Benefits of Offering Modified Duty for Injured Workers

Even if an injured worker is returned to work at a lower-paying job, the indemnity benefit is lowered by the amount of wage the employee earns while on modified duty. Distinct states, of course, offer different laws when it comes to modified duty. In general, most states operate in the manner stated above.

Here are the Advantages of a Modified Duty Program

For Employees

  • With their professional routine continued, employees can retain social contacts and a sense of purpose.
  • Employees keep their abilities and skills up to date and contribute to the organization's success.
  • Individuals keep part, if not all, of their earnings.
  • People will more likely return to their pre-injury jobs sooner.
  • Keeps employees connected to others in the organization.

For Employers

  • Absenteeism and days away from work will be decreased.
  • Reduced administrative expenses involved with hiring temporary workers to fill the post.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Reduced indirect costs such as having other employees take over job functions.
  • Reduced litigation possibilities.
  • Cost of workers’ compensation claims were kept under control.
  • Helps reduce future workers’ compensation premiums
  • Costs of short-term and long-term disability (STD/LTD) are decreased.

Examples of Modified Duty Assignments

  • Facility maintenance, minor repairs, and hazard assessment are all part of the maintenance process. Light duty assignments that reintroduce recovering individuals to their regular work environs can help everyone improve their working conditions and safety procedures.
  • Safety and equipment inspections. This provides hands-on work for the returning employee.
  • Inventory management and shipping and receiving, filing sales ledgers, and material documentation are all part of modified duty.
  • Answering phones, data input, keeping records, and processing mail are examples of administrative/office jobs. These reduced-duty assignments are best for wounded workers who are well-organized and multitaskers.
  • New hire orientations, peer workshops, safety discussions, and one-on-one training are all examples of cross-training. This is a great way for expert individuals to share their knowledge of their job or equipment with others.

How to Get Started with a Modified Duty Program

  1. Establish policies and procedures.
  2. Assign or appoint a coordinator.
  3. Create transitional jobs with good physical demands descriptions.
  4. Provide the treating physician with good modified job descriptions.
  5. Establish a timetable for modified duty and assign responsibilities.
  6. Encourage the injured worker when he returns to work with a modified schedule.

An Important Reminder

Light duty assignments and employer duties are addressed directly in a number of state and federal legislation, including OSHA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Because the workers' compensation system is both vast and complex, developing proactive support programs that tick all the boxes can be difficult. That is why it is important to work with an experienced broker who can help design and manage these kinds of programs.

Free eBook | Central CA Workers' Compensation Best Practices | The Dos and Don'ts of Workers' Comp - Workers' comp can be as complex as it is costly, especially out here. Read Central CA Workers' Compensation Best Practices, to learn best practices and tips specifically for local businesses. Download

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About The Author

Carmen Sanchez is a Commercial Insurance & Risk Advisor who offers her clients the highest level of service.

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