Frequently Asked Questions

(Q) What are alternative work assignments and job modifications?
(A) When possible, job tasks should be assessed and a possible list of work assignments should be created before they are actually needed. These assignments may include full or part time work and should have time limits. These alternative work assignments must be meaningful and productive. Demeaning or “make work” assignments will defeat the purpose as this could be seen as punishment.(Q) What are some keys to making a light duty program successful?
(A) The key to success is involving everyone and making light duty a team effort. Follow up is also an important key to making the program a success. Stay in contact with the employee every day and have an injury coordinator who makes certain that the restrictions under which an employee is operating are communicated to the supervisor. It should be emphasized to the supervisor the importance of making sure the employee does not violate the restrictions. This can just make the injury get worse. Part of the program is an insistence that employees on restrictive duty visit the doctor every few weeks to monitor their progress.

(Q) Why is it so important to get them back to work?
(A) The Menninger Foundation, a medical research center in Topeka, Kansas has data that clearly shows the longer a worker stays away from the workplace, the greater chance he or she will never return. The study shows that there is a 60 day window for workers to return to work. After that a significant number never return. Over time workers can develop “disability dependence- a mindset of being sick.” A quick return-to-work, even with modified duty, is much better for the employee. The employee recovers more quickly, is less apt to get out of shape, is able to maintain wage stability, and stays connected to the workplace.

(Q) How can a program be evaluated to show that it is a good return-to-work program?
(A) Good return-to-work programs should do the following:

  • return injured workers back to meaningful work within 24 hours of most injuries.
  • be relatively easy to administer.
  • avoid keeping employees in temporary assignments indefinitely.
  • provide supervisors with a clear idea of what can be done by the injured employee instead of what can’t be done.
  • a successful return-to-work program should also be able to reduce your overall workers’ compensation losses by at least 10% and as much as 30. Benchmarking systems should be instituted to measure the effectiveness of the program.