October 16, 2018
What You Need to Know About Light Duty Work
Light duty assignments are an important part of a Return-to-Work (RTW) program and at times, they may seem complicated. But once you’re armed with the right information, most employers find them easy to implement and monitor. Ultimately, the goal of light duty work is to transition an injured employee back to their regular job quickly and safely.
Defining Light Duty
Simply put, light-duty assignments are temporary tasks designed to ease the transition back to work, so injured workers can remain at work while recovering from illness or injury. Of course, the type of jobs offered will vary upon the person’s medical restrictions and the workplace.
5 Examples of Light Duty Assignments
What jobs actually qualify as light duty work? While options vary for each type of business, below are some common assignments to use as guides.
- Administrative/Office (answering phones, data entry, filing and handling mail. This would be good for individuals who are organized and able to handle some multi-tasking.
- Cross-training other workers or new employees: This is a good opportunity for skilled workers to share their knowledge about their position or equipment with others.
- Equipment inspection: This could be helpful in general, as it has the potential to improve workplace safety.
- Inventory: Also for the organized, but highly focused on one specific task.
- 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.
For example, an employee injured in a manufacturing plant might take on office work during the healing process, while a worker who sustains an injury on a construction site may perform janitorial duties before returning to his or her previous role. Some employers have workers keep their existing jobs but modify their day-to-day responsibilities to accommodate physical limitations.
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 (FLMA), directly address light duty assignments so it’s important to have all the facts straight. According to the American Bar Association, 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 injuries while on the clock. 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.
Exploring the Benefits for Employers and Employees
Why create a temporary position for an injured employee who might be back on the clock soon? The answer is simple: Modified assignments offer numerous benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: Injured workers bring their drive and motivation to other jobs and departments.
- Improved morale: Offering light duty work shows workers they are a valued part of the company and other employees are relieved to see their coworker back at work. An injury can be tough on a person’s mindset, and letting them be productive and stay involved helps them stay motivated and positive.
- Workforce stability: Bringing an injured employee back in a limited role removes the need to hire temporary staff to fill the gap.
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? Then download our Sample Return to Work Policy and watch FFVA Mutual’s Return to Work webcast.