An injured worker receiving workers’ compensation will sometimes return to work for light duty if there is a role he or she can perform. Generally speaking, the injured worker must get approval from a doctor before going back to work, assuming the light duty role fits within his or her medical restrictions. If the doctor approves the return to work, the worker will have to show up or risk having workers’ compensation benefits suspended or modified.
The options vary within different industries, but the light duty job being offered by the employer may be completely different from an employee’s usual work, or it can be the same job with certain physical accommodations. It might be a different shift. If the light duty pays less than the worker’s normal job, workers’ compensation should pay 2/3 of the difference between the pre-injury wages and the current lesser wages.
Typical examples of light duty work
As the name implies, the job will be less physically demanding. Examples include:
- Doing paperwork, answering phones or doing work in an office
- Supervising work areas or reporting on work areas
- Working at a security desk or monitoring cameras
- Equipment maintenance
Be careful about going back to work too early
Both the worker and the employer need to be mindful of the dangers of going back to work too early. It can lead to re-injury or a severe complication that slows the healing process, or further complicates it. If the employer-approved health provider approves a return to work but the worker is unsure, workers are entitled to ask for a second opinion from another doctor from the list the employer provides.
Workers must also be sure to hold employers to their word. For example, the employer may have thought they made accommodations, but these do not fit the guidelines provided by the doctor. In such cases, workers should file an incident report and notify their doctor.
It may also become necessary to speak with an attorney
If a worker has not consulted with a workers’ compensation attorney by the time they return to light duty, it would be a good idea to do so, especially if the worker will have trouble performing the light duty job. Attorneys here in Southeastern Pennsylvania can provide knowledgeable guidance that help protect workers’ rights and safety, whether it is light duty work after an injury or another matter.