A risk manager or workers compensation coordinator understands the importance of bringing employees back to work as quickly as possible following an injury. However, for the temporary duty job or for the modified duty job to be worthwhile to the employee and productive for the company, it needs to be more than having the employee to answer the phones or sweeping the floor.
There are differences between a temporary duty job and a modified duty job. A temporary duty job is a regular job within the company that the injured is assigned to on a temporary basis. A modified duty job is the employee's regular job with aspects of it changed or removed to accommodate the physical restrictions of the injured employee. [WCx]
The challenge is to place the employee in a temporary duty job that will match the restrictions placed on the employee's work by the medical provider while producing a benefit for the employer. The physical demands of the employee's regular position are often such that if lifting, standing, and bending are eliminated, there is nothing left in the injured employee's regular job, and a temporary duty job is necessary to return the injured employee to work.
For the purposes of this article, we are assuming there is a written job description for each and every position that is more detailed than “makes stuff”. If not the human resources department can have a job description designed to use each time they are recruiting to fill a position.
To determine what type of temporary job the injured employee can do, conduct an assessment of the employee just like hiring the employee for the first time. If the injured employee's job skills are subtracted from those skills he is unable to do due to his injury, what is left is a fairly good rendition of the type of temporary job the employee can do.
To assess the injured employee's capabilities to do a temporary duty job, use the following for each job considered for the employee's placement.
What are the physical demands of the temporary duty job being considered? [If the employee cannot meet the physical demands of the temporary duty job, the temporary duty job can be eliminated from further consideration and a different job should be considered.]
List the essential requirements of the temporary duty job.
List the major responsibilities of the person in the temporary duty job.
Does the job require any particular educational background?
Does the job require any particular training?
Does the employee have the technical skill necessary for the job?
Will all the necessary tools and equipment for the job be available to the employee?
Are language skills, or bi-lingual skills necessary in the temporary job?
Are mathematical skills necessary in the temporary job?
Does the temporary job require strong reasoning abilities or the ability to make quick decisions?
Does the job require any travel that could interfere with his medical care?
Will the work environment of the temporary job conform to the employee's restrictions?
Once each aspect is considered, the list of potential jobs is shortened to an essential few. If you have more than one job to place the injured employee in, then consider where the employee would provide the most benefit to the company, or which job needs that worker the most. If there are not any jobs to accommodate the employee's abilities and skills, then consider which job will need the least modification or adaptation for the employee to perform the job.
While on the surface this might seem like a lot of work to place the employee back at work for 15, 30, or 60 days before being recovered enough to assume prior job duties, keep in mind the employees who are placed back to work are paid less in indemnity benefits while recovering faster than peers at home unable to return to work. [WCx]
Temporary job placement and modified duty will save the employer money through increased production and lower workers' compensation cost. We strongly recommend providing the injured worker a job within physical restrictions as soon as possible after the injury.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Manage Your Workers Compensation: Reduce Costs 20-50%www.WCManual.com.Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.