By: Kathleen Murray, Capstone Brokerage Client Advocate, July 25, 2017

Injured employees heal faster when they’re restored to their “normal” routines and lives more quickly. Bringing an employee back to work quickly also helps maintain the relationship and trust between the company and the employee.

In many cases, however, before an injured employee can return to work, he or she needs rehabilitation to regain strength or learn to function with disability. Therapy teaches employees ways to work without re-injury or repeat illness- for example: Proper lifting techniques or stress management techniques.

Since medical professionals determine when an employee can return to work, it’s essential to consult with the doctor to find out whether the employee can return to regular duties or whether a light or alternate duty job is necessary for a while before the employee can take up regular job duties again.

Alternate Duty

One of the most important ways to ease a recovering employees’ return to work is by assigning appropriate alternate duty work.

• Alternate duty is a transitional phase for a worker recovering from a job-related injury or illness. It is a way to ease the employee back into work routines without causing further harm.
• Alternate duty gives the employee the chance to make a meaningful and productive contribution during transitional phase.
• Alternate duty helps bridge the gap for the employee between being out of work and resuming regular job duties.

The employee’s physician will monitor performance during this period to prevent overtaxing, re-injury, or repeated illness. The physician will tell you when the employee can go back to his or her regular job. When there is no appropriate alternate duty job, the employee may be treated solely at an off-site rehabilitation center.

Here are some options for possible alternate duty jobs:

• Alternate duty work could include less strenuous or stressful parts of the employee’s normal job.

• It could also involve normal job tasks performed on a part-time basis or at a slower rate to accommodate the employee’s recovery.

• Another useful possibility is to combine the less strenuous or stressful parts of several different jobs to create one full-time job for the recovering employee. This could free up other works to take on special project or catch up with work that is falling behind.

• You could also decide to assign a special project without a tight deadline to a recovering employee. You probably have several projects that you’d like to get done, but no one seems to have the time to do them. This might be an ideal opportunity to proceed with one of these projects.

As workers compensations rates continue to rise, it will become increasingly important for employers to control costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses. One of the biggest, yet most controllable, costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses is lost time from work due to disability. The most effective way to have a favorable impact on these costs is to implement a Return to Work (RTW) program. Business with a RTW are able to limit the cost of an injured employee being on disability while utilizing their skill set in a modified fashion decreasing the need for added costs associated with covering the employees typical work duties. For more information on how to have a RTW be cost effective and decrease the amount of funds lost for work related injuries discuss this more with your Insurance Broker or Risk management team.