Injured Workers: Why Light Duty Accommodations Make Everything Better

When a worker is hurt on the job, the best thing you can do is get the employee back to work as soon as possible by providing light duty.



When an employee is hurt on the job, I always recommend employers get the employee back to work as soon as possible by providing and offering light duty.

Here are the top four reasons why:

Injured at work? Stacey has recommendations on light duty and other accommodations to help the employee -- and the workplace -- stay productive, even through an injury.

1. Light duty is good for the worker.

Ever sit at home recovering from being sick for a few days? Then you know how boring it can be to wait for your body to heal. Help your employee’s morale stay high by encouraging them to remain productive in the workplace. While their work might not be on par with their usual productivity, they’ll still be contributing and making a difference.

How: Is there another task the worker could do? Could the addition of a stool, chair, modified mouse and keyboard, or dictation software help? A little investment can go a long way in terms of accommodation.

2. Light duty is good for your business.

Can you move an injured employee temporarily into another role? Can you cut back on hours or implement more breaks to give the employee additional time to heal? It’s doubtful the work of an injured employee can wait until the employee is back to 100 percent. By making accommodations, you’re helping ensure the work is completed -- even if it means swapping roles with another worker for a little while. This helps the morale of the rest of the team, too, since you’re not asking them to do double duty while an injured employee is out. Hopefully, with a few adjustments, your business can continue to operate with little interruption.

How: Look for other tasks that an injured worker can perform with the injury. By the way, it’s okay to change the employee’s rate of pay if the light duty work is a lower pay grade. Just be sure you discuss this with the employee beforehand and beware that there may be workers’ comp payouts towards the claim if there’s a significant difference in pay (see #3).

3. Light duty is good for your finances.

In most states, if the employee was injured at work, they will receive 66.67 percent of regular wages from the workers’ comp insurance carrier while recovering from the injury. Any work they do or income they make during that time reduces the amount of money they receive from the workers’ comp payout, which reduces the financial responsibility associated with the claim. Spending time at work also helps to keep an employee more positive about work and about you as an employer. That way, when they do take a break and watch TV or surf the internet, those personal injury attorney ads may seem much less convincing.

How: Always consult with the employee’s doctor to ensure the light duty work won’t result in additional injuries or increase the time it takes the employee to heal. And remember to keep your expectations realistic. Even an employee who is capable of doing their normal job with modifications may have reduced output.

4. Light duty is good for your e-mod.

Ok, side detour for a minute to explain what an experience modifier (e-mod) is. Your company’s e-mod is the multiplier used to determine your workers’ comp premium. An e-mod of 1.0 is the industry average, so if your workers’ comp premium prior to being multiplied by the e-mod is $100,000, an e-mod of 1.0 means your total premium is $100,000 x 1.0, or exactly $100,000.

If your company pays out more or less money towards workers’ comp claims than other companies of similar size and industry in your state, your emod will be adjusted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Companies with fewer claims and/or expenses will be adjusted to less than 1.0, whereas companies with more claims and/or expenses will be higher than 1.0.

Oh, and did I mention that the experience rating period is for three years? So if a worker gets injured in 2019, it will show up in your emod rating for policy year 2021 and will stay there for three years. While there’s a lot to be said about all this, think of it as being similar to health insurance claims: the less you pay out for workers’ comp insurance, the less your company’s e-mod will increase, which will impact how much your company pays for workers’ comp insurance in the future.

How: Find room for improvement with your company safety program and culture. While a serious claim will certainly have an impact, your company’s emod will be more heavily affected by a steady stream of smaller, more frequent claims because they demonstrate a negligent attitude towards safety.

For help with understanding the purpose and benefits of light duty, please contact your certified HR expert. Not a current Stratus HR client? Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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