Money-Saving Benefits of a Light Duty Resource for Employers
An Employer's Guide to Administrating Modified Duty
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 there were 2.8 cases of workplace injuries per 100 employees. This amounts to a total of 2.8 million injuries or illnesses. These numbers account for all full-time private industry employees.
This happens in businesses regardless of size and it could cost your business a fortune if it happens to you. Luckily, this doesn't have to be you.
There are ways to reduce the cost of an injured employee to your company. One of the best ways that reduce costs that also improve safety in your company is by providing light duties.
Make light-duty resources available to your employees. This means that you have injured employees do less physically or mentally demanding work while they recover.
Light-Duty Work Program: A Complete Overview
We'll start by answering the most obvious question. What are light-duty resources or light-duty programs?
Light-duty refers to a work agreement that allows employees with limitations to return to a job that has less physical or mental requirements. This system lets employees that have faced on the job injuries return to work without strain or risk of further damage. These policies reduce wage expenses and decrease the cost of a worker's compensation insurance claim.
As a rule, employers aren't required to offer light-duty resources to employers. But they are encouraged to create these programs by workers’ compensation insurers to reduce claim costs.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) lets injured employees reject light-duty work and remain on FMLA leave. But if they refuse the light-duty work resources they may have their workers' compensation benefits revoked. We will talk more about the FMLA later in this article.
Alternatively, if there is a disabled employee they can return to work under a light-duty capacity. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer may have to accommodate them. These accommodations must permit the employee to perform the necessary functions of the job.
How Do Light-Duty Resources Save You Money
Now we'll talk about pay.
If an employee is on light-duty they must retain their previous salary amount every week. This is without considering the number of days or hours worked. The amount that you paying the employee has to reach the minimum required for the exemption amount claimed.
But you as the employer have the option to modify the amount that you pay them based on any anticipated absences for disability reasons. Another option that employers have is to convert the employee to part-time (or nonexempt status) for a brief period of time while they recover. It also reduces the amount of workers' compensation you might have to pay out to employees.
How to Set up Light-Duty Resources
Before we go into creating your plan let's go over what your plan should look like factors that modified duty resource programs have in common.
For a light-duty resource program to be successful it must fit neatly in the company's existing health and safety structure.
They must also abide by the worker's compensation laws required by the state where your business resides. Generally, these laws will protect your company from liability if an employee is hurt or killed on the job. They will also offer a death benefit when an employee dies at their job and cover medical fees and lost pay if a worker is injured.
The following is a rough outline of what a return to work policy should look like for your company:
1. Have a plan of action prepared for when an employee faces an injury. Make sure your employees understand this procedure and how to follow it. The process of communicating this information is usually handled by a safety ambassador who acts as a liaison between management and employees.
2. A way to communicate with unions, employees, managers, and medical experts so that regulations are followed and suitable light duties are found.
3. A system for changing the workplace to accommodate the injured employee's needs. These can include special devices and office redesigns to help your employee transition smoothly to their new tasks.
4. A way of identifying and noting the light duties that are available for employees before there is an injury.
5. A system to educate employees about workplace safety and a list of safety training topics to go over whenever there is a change in the business.
6. A way of communicating to hires both new and old policies during the onboarding process. These must include information about rehabilitation physical therapy, and job modifications so that employees are aware of their resources before they get sick.
7. Policies that permit doctor input on the light duties and if they are suitable for the client.
8. A process for modifying the policy on a regular basis. As time goes on and laws change you will need to periodically go over your program. This will require you to update and make changes to the policy as new needs arise.
9. Policies allowing an injured employees to locate jobs that fit their current skill level.
Have a Written Policy
The best way to implement a light-duty policy is to make sure that it is easily spelled out for your employees. You should also designate a safety ambassador to help you make better choices about how to avoid safety mishaps and to protect your employees.
A Chance to Retrain Employees on Their New Responsibilities
To create this management must be diligent about creating guides and updating them whenever necessary. This will allow your employees to know that if they face an injury that they will be able to skillfully perform their role.
Light-Duty Work Programs and the Law
Though the exact laws will vary depending on the district here are some common federal regulations that you will run into when you are implementing and creating your policy. There are three primary federal regulations to keep in mind when you create your policies. The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Note that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission applies mostly to those who are pregnant.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA was created in 1990 and signed into law in 1993 in the United States. This law was created to allow employees to take time off they had experienced something serious like an injury illness or serious medical problem. This also included the requirement that both their current position and income were safe if any serious medical emergency happened.
The FMLA and Your Light-Duty Plan
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you can keep the worker productive in a different capacity. The worker can instead choose to take the Family or medical leave instead.
Your employee always has the right to take leave you cannot stop them from taking leave even if you want them to keep working. If an employee cannot perform a job because of a serious injury, then they must be allowed to leave. But if you offer the employee light-duty resources and they accept then can't be used as a strike against the Family and medical leave act allocation.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA provides disabled people with similar protections as previous civil rights laws. This means that employers must provide accommodations for employees that have been injured or disabled on the job.
The ADA and Light-Duty
The ADA regulations mean that in some cases you may not be able to limit light duties only to those with on-the-job injuries as that may constitute discrimination. In fact in a court case in a 2009 court case called EEOC v. Supervalue ruled that employers can't restrict light duties only to those who have workplace injuries. Under the EEOC employers must offer light-duty resources to pregnant employees if those accommodations had been previously offered to non-pregnant employees.
Examples of Light-Duty Jobs for Small Businesses
You know how to create a policy and what it should include but let's get a little more specific. What responsibilities should you give employees after they are injured?
Here are some light-duty examples. Though these may not align with your organization they are here to act as a springboard to help you come up with more appropriate or fitting ideas.
- Filing and shredding documents
- Answering phone calls or responding to messages
- Entering data
- Outreach to Customers like greeting
- Examining equipment and inventory
- Sending out purchase orders
- Cleaning tools
Note that these are just some of the modified duty examples that are available you may need to consult an outside party to come up with ones that are more specific to your business.
Other Benefits of Light-Duty Return to Work Program
You already know that return to work programs save you money by reducing claims and keeping you from losing out on employee labor. But there are more benefits to having a policy like this. Let's go over more ways that you can save money with a light work policy.
Finding Work for Employees Once Thought Unemployable
If an employee is injured they may feel as though they have no hope of ever entering the workforce and finding stable employment again. If you can prove that the injured worker can perform some kind of work, then you may be able to demonstrate something called PIWEC or a post-injury wage-earning capacity.
This means that if your light-duty job no longer becomes available you have the option to take the money and enroll the employee in vocational training.
The extent to which you will use this plan depends on the area where you live. Make sure that you contact your lawyers before attempting to implement this plan
Improve Employee Morale
One of the best benefits of this system is that it improves the motivation and morale of employees. As well as employee loyalty to the company.
If an employee is facing an injury they may be forced to take time away from work and stay at home. This can take a severe mental strain on an employee. An injured employee that is stuck at home is usually stuck there for an extended period of time. If a worker is away from their job for an extended period of time it may take them much longer to get back to work once they recover.
If you keep them working you can avoid the hassle of having to retrain them by keeping them in the workplace. This can also improve their mental health because they don't have the fear of losing their income.
Prevent Worker's Compensation Fraud
Another benefit that you have is deterring fraudulent worker's compensation claims. Unfortunately, workers' compensation fraud is a widespread problem in the united states. Though exact numbers are unclear the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) estimates that workers compensation fraud costs the US over $30 billion annually.
Though no one likes to believe that their employees are capable of fraud it's always good to be prepared just in case. If an employee knows that they will have to come back to work they will be less likely to file a false claim.
Having a light-duty return to work policy means that you will be less vulnerable to claims that are suspect. This is because suspicious claims are the ones that cost your business the most money. Because of the need for time-consuming investigations and surveillance fees and Independent Medical Examinations.
Want More Resources to Help Your Employees Return to Work?
Light-duty requirements let you protect your small business and your employees. By giving injured or disabled employees a chance to do less physically demanding work so that you still have your employee providing labor for you and your employee is still receiving a paycheck. Light-duty resources save you money on insurance claim costs and can reduce the cost of your plan overall.
If you're interested in setting up a plan, then you don't have to go it alone. We have all the information you need to help your employees smoothly return to work. If you want to learn more then contact us today.