What You Need to Know About Light Duty Work
Light Duty Helps Transition Workers Quickly and Safely
Light-duty assignments play a key role in Return to Work (RTW) programs by offering flexible accommodations for employees who were injured at work. These modified job duties are typically less demanding, allowing injured workers to stay engaged while they’re still recovering. At times, light-duty jobs can seem complicated – after all, every injury and illness comes with different work restrictions. However, once you’re armed with the right information, you may find they’re easier to implement than you thought.
What is Modified Light-Duty Work?
The term light duty refers to “temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When an injured employee is unable to perform their pre-accident responsibilities, employers can offer light-duty jobs designed to ease their return to a full-time schedule. Of course, the type of tasks offered will vary depending on the employee’s medical restrictions and the needs of your business.
Ultimately, the goal of light-duty work is to help transition injured employees back to their regular job duties quickly and safely. By offering temporary or part-time light-duty assignments, you can encourage workers to stay engaged with their careers and demonstrate your company’s commitment to their health and well-being.
5 Examples of Light Duty Assignments
- Administrative/office work: Answering phones, data entry, filing records and/or handling mail. These tasks are particularly suited to injured workers who are organized and able to multitask.
- Cross-training other workers: New hire orientations, peer workshops, safety talks and one-on-one training. These are good opportunities for skilled workers to share their knowledge about their position or equipment with others.
- Equipment inspection and maintenance: Safety checks, gear inspections, repair work and proactive maintenance tasks. Working at a desk isn’t for everyone, which is why hands-on light-duty assignments can be a valuable addition to your Return to Work program.
- Inventory management: Hands-off shipping and receiving work, filing sales ledgers and material recordkeeping. These types of light-duty jobs may appeal to boots-on-the-ground workers who are interested in more active support roles.
- Maintenance: Working at a desk isn’t for everyone, so consider other options like maintenance or repair work.
Administrative tasks are ideal for light duty work.
Alongside these light-duty assignments, some employers allow injured workers to keep their existing roles, but modify their day-to-day responsibilities to accommodate their physical limitations or medical registrations. No matter which option you choose, it’s important to offer modified work that employees will find meaningful and engaging. This is why a personalized RTW program is such a valuable resource, as light-duty jobs can be tailored to the individual needs and preferences of each worker.
What Does the Law Say?
A number of state and federal laws, including both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), directly address light-duty assignments and employers’ responsibilities. According to the American Bar Association, the ADA and FMLA do not require companies to offer modified roles to injured workers. Even so, the ADA does mandate ‘reasonable accommodations’ for employees who sustain a work injury or illness. These options can include paid medical leave or light-duty work. Overall, it’s important to be aware of employer and employee rights related to transitional work assignments to avoid any regulatory issues.
In terms of OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, light-duty assignments can be considered a recordable restriction in certain scenarios, EHS Today explained. The main exception is when an employee’s physician states that the worker is able to perform all of his or her routine job duties and work a full-time schedule. The best way to avoid any confusion is to work with the medical provider to clarify which tasks an injured employee cannot perform, and which light-duty jobs they can safely take on.
Exploring the Benefits for Employers and Employees
Modified or light-duty jobs offer numerous benefits for both employees and employers, especially when they are woven into a comprehensive RTW program. It’s important to note, however, that every person involved in an injury claim has a specific role to play in determining which light-duty tasks should be assigned. Working directly with your claims adjuster can help you understand which workers’ compensation benefits apply, how to safely transition injured workers back to a full-time schedule and why certain modified work is considered a ‘reasonable accommodation.’ When implemented effectively, your light-duty strategy can help your company:
- Increase productivity: Injured workers bring their drive and motivation to other jobs and departments. By offering meaningful light-duty assignments, you can keep them focused on returning to work quickly and safely while channeling their dedication to complete important job duties.
- Improve morale: Offering light-duty tasks shows workers they are a valued part of the company, and other employees may be relieved to see their co-worker back at work. An injury can be tough on a person’s mindset, and letting them be productive and involved helps them stay motivated and positive.
- Stabilize your workforce: Bringing an injured worker back in a limited role removes the need to hire temporary staff to fill the gap. Every member of your team plays a crucial role in the success of your organization, which is why it’s important to choose light-duty jobs that have a real impact on your day-to-day stability.
With this awareness, light-duty programs benefit both employers and employees while reducing costs associated with injury claims, recruitment, dropped productivity and decreased morale. Of course, open communication is essential to finding the right type of light-duty work for each employee.
Building an Effective Light-Duty Program
The workers’ compensation system is both broad and complex, making it difficult to create proactive support programs that check all the boxes. At FFVA Mutual, we believe that Return to Work programs and light-duty jobs play a leading role in workplace safety. That’s why we collaborate with our policyholders and agency partners to develop light-duty strategies that are compassionate, effective and flexible.
With this awareness, light duty programs benefit both employers and employees while reducing costs. Are you an employer looking to discover more about light duty and successful Return to Work programs or starting from the ground up? FFVA Mutual’s Return to Work eBook, Sample Return to Work Policy and Return to Work webcast have the information and resources you need to be successful.