The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) studied return-to-work situations in two states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which show that poor economic conditions have made it more difficult for some employers to offer light, transitional or modified duty for injured workers.

Although injured workers in those two states have typically reported better return-to-work outcomes than workers in other states, the economic downturn is reducing the number of success stories.

The study found:

  • Clear standards and processes that provide financial incentives for employers and injured workers to return to suitable light, modified or transitional duty during the healing period can minimize a worker’s detachment from the workforce, reduce the likelihood of longer-term absence and reduce costs.
  • Medical professionals play a central role in return-to-work efforts.
  • Workers with permanent restrictions following injury are especially vulnerable to delays in return to work.

How can companies use light-duty programs to reduce workers’ comp costs?

  • Develop potential light-duty jobs. Companies should not wait until they have an injured worker to do this.
  • Spell out details about the demands of the light-duty job.
  • Take the specifics of the job to a doctor who is treating the injured employee and get an opinion whether the worker is able to perform the necessary tasks for the position.

Author: Deborah Goza, MS, RN, COHNS, CCM
Editor: Lisa Perry