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Accommodating Modified Restrictions (Transitional Duty Program)

- December 22, 2017 by Jeff Yeaw (View all posts by Jeff)

Many employers don’t realize how much it benefits a company and injured employees when they are accommodated on modified work restrictions due to a work-related injury. On the surface, this may seem inconvenient, but a transitional duty program benefits both parties in several ways and reduces the overall cost of a workers’ compensation claim.

Accommodation of work restrictions is becoming increasingly important. Studies have shown that “early return-to-work” programs result in employees getting back to full duty faster, with reduced risk of attorney involvement. Keeping employees engaged in their scheduled routine, coming to work and maintaining a semblance of productivity helps to maintain a positive outlook and morale. The exact opposite happens when someone is off work. They are out of their routine, they feel disconnected from the workplace and they may even start to wonder about how they will be treated when they return. The risk is in developing a “disability attitude.”

There is also no way to stem rising claim costs without a strong transitional duty program, which includes accommodating modified restrictions. The impact of higher claim costs will affect your company in the future, with a rising experience modification factor (Ex-Mod), which results in higher workers’ compensation premium for the next three years. The outline below provides a highlight of transitional duty program “best practices.”


  • Develop a medical provider relationship with your occupational health clinic. Make it clear that your company policy is to accommodate work restrictions and that you have transitional duties. Additionally, it would be beneficial to provide a written job description to the clinic so the physician knows exactly what the physical requirements are under normal circumstances for the employee. This makes it challenging for an employee to make exaggerated claims about their normal duties.
  • It is best to use “transitional duty” as a term, instead of “light duty” to minimize the stigma this may present to the injured employee and other employees, who may view “light duty” as appealing.
  • Injured employees do not have to do the same task for the entire shift. They can do as many different tasks as can be thought of, as long as they stay within the parameters of the work restrictions.
  • Tasks should be productive and meaningful when possible, but not punitive in nature.
  • Supervisors and Safety Committees should brainstorm tasks to develop a “job bank,” a list of tasks that can be assigned to employees with common restrictions. The job bank list saves time and effort in thinking about what can be assigned to an employee when they report to work in a modified capacity.
  • Train supervisors to understand the benefits of the transitional duty program and to be actively involved in task assignment, supervision and effective communication with the employee and management.
    • Guided by the goal of safely returning the employees to their pre-injury jobs, employers who work and stay in touch with injured employees, the treating physicians and supervisors are most successful.

Stay tuned to “mySafetynews” for more on transitional duty programs in the near future, including examples of modified duty tasks and what options ICW Group customers have when finding modified work is not reasonable.

Additional Resources

Please contact ICW Group Risk Management with any questions or assistance in developing your Transitional Duty Program.



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