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The Value of a Modified Duty Employee

- November 22, 2017 by Leslie Stoll, CSP ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

Getting an injured employee back to work promptly is essential for keeping claims costs down. In fact, in many states, a factor that goes into calculating your experience mod is whether someone remains at work or is taken off work. Claims that result in someone losing time from work (receiving indemnity benefits) have a greater effect on the bottom dollar than those that result in medical only costs. This cost savings is the reason that so many companies have adopted a return to work program. But having a program is not as simple as writing it down and putting it on a shelf. You can’t bring someone back to work to do nothing; they need to come back to perform meaningful work. The days of sorting paper clips are gone!

Having a successful return to work program and finding meaningful work for an employee to do while on modified duty is not hard, it just takes a little planning.

1. Have updated job descriptions on file. The treating doctor can use this information to determine if the employee can perform their full job duties or transitional job duties for your company. Your supervisors can use the job descriptions to make sure that injured employees are not working outside of their work restrictions and are working within the listed job duties.

2. Take a minute to brainstorm. Brainstorm a list of all the tasks that need to be done routinely around your facility. This includes all the little things that no one has the time to do, but are still important to the operations.  I’ve listed a few ideas below:

    • Assembling shipping cartons
    • Organizing storage rooms
    • Painting guard rails or aisle lines
    • Conduction safety audits
    • Counting inventory
    • Helping with daily office tasks
    • Answering phones
    • Data entry

3. Train your staff. Under pressure, your supervisors may find it easier to send an injured employee home than to find work for him. Make sure your supervisors know that your company has a return to work program and they are expected to make every effort to provide modified duties to an employee injured at work.

Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not bring up modified duties and labor unions. If you employ union employees, you might think that the union will not allow employees to perform modified duty work because it’s outside of the scope of the union, but I urge you not to make this assumption. While I’m sure there are unions who will put up a fight, there are also union leaders who will support your return to work program. You may need to spend a little extra time developing your modified duty task list so you are not crossing into other union areas, but it is certainly possible to make it work.

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