Reducing Premiums is Not the Only Benefit
It's true that using modified duty assignments can help a company reduce its annual workers' compensation premiums, but there are numerous more benefits to a Modified Duty Policy. The following are just a few of the benefits:
Modified duty work assignments enable the employer to ensure that the physician's physical restrictions are being followed (at least while the employee is at work). Conversely, if the employee is off from work, the employer has no idea what he/she is doing. At home, the employee could be engaging in activities that violate the physician's restrictions and thereby aggravating his/her injury.
Using modified duty work assignments sends a clear message for other employees that claiming a work-related injury is not an alternative method of getting paid "vacation" time. In fact, the message that is sent is that time off work is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to work-related injures.
Using modified duty work assignments reinforces the message that an injured employee is a valued part of the company and is needed for the company to be productive. Few of us are 100% every day. By taking the extra effort to find or create a modified duty work assignment, the employer is letting the employees know that they are valued even if they are not at the top of their game.
Modified duty work assignments prevent the employee from having to overcome the psychological "hump" of being off work and making the adjustment of return-to-work. The longer someone is away from work, the harder it is to get them back to work. In fact, the longer someone is away from work as a result of a work-related injury, the higher the likelihood that they will never return.
Modified duty work assignments help maintain the productivity of the company's operation. Even if an injured employee is able to be only 50% productive while on a modified duty work assignment, the company would receive 0% productivity if the employee remains off work. Therefore, finding or creating a modified duty work assignment for an injured employee contributes to the overall productivity of the company.
Modified duty work assignments discourages malingering. An employee who is given a temporary modified duty work assignment is more likely to return to his/her regular job duties more quickly than he/she would if the employee was off from work during the recovery period.
Modified duty work assignments promote unity and establish a positive working relationship between the employer and the employee. Because both the employer and the employee benefit from the use of modified duty, the willingness of the employer to make the extra effort to accommodate an injured employee often enhances the sometimes strained employee/employer relationship.
Modified duty work assignments help "weed out" employees looking for a "free ride." It is unfortunate but true, some individuals are looking for a free ride and view the workers' compensation system as a means to that end. A prime example is Tom in the story at the beginning of this article. Many times such an individual will simply quit if he/she is not enabled to sit at home and draw a workers' compensation check. As long as the modified duty assignment does not violate the treating physician's imposed physical restrictions, and as long as the modified duty assignment is within the employee's physical and skill level capabilities, the employee is expected to return to work. Failure to accept such a modified duty assignment will almost always result in the termination of the employee's workers' compensation wage-replacement benefits.
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