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7 Helpful Steps You Can Take for Employees Who Need Modified Duty Work

Few things can be as disruptive to the employer-employee relationship than a work-related incident that results in an injury to the employee. Whenever this kind of incident happens, several things follow.

First, the employer may be liable for medical expenses and will have to pay out a certain portion of indemnity benefits until an insurance company takes over. The employee will have to begin the long recovery process. But most importantly, a modified duty program must be developed so that the employee is given a path to return to work.

There are several reasons why a modified duty policy is absolutely crucial when a workplace incident occurs. Firstly, it will help the employee to get back on track faster — people heal faster when they have concrete tasks to look forward to. It will also ensure that the employee doesn’t fall behind on training.

Last but not least, it also helps the company to get some value for money considering the indemnity benefits that they are paying. If they’re paying a percentage of the employee’s wages as they recover, it makes sense that they receive some amount of work from the employee.

1. Develop a Written Modified Duty Policy

The first thing to consider is that the modified duty program should be written out. Don’t rely on a program that’s simply developed in a meeting over conversation and then never put to paper.

Written return to work programs are required for several reasons. First, you want documentation to prove what the scope of the modified duty program was should a dispute over the workload ever arise. Second, the employee can review what exactly he/she needs to be prepared to do, and can ask questions and voice concerns as necessary.

2. Consult Immediate Supervisors

When developing the workload for the modified duty program, it’s important to consult the people who worked closest with the employee. This will include immediate supervisors as well as other folks who work in the employee’s role.

Together, the supervisors and peers should be able to put together a plan that is not too taxing for the employee. The supervisor will have a good handle on what he or she needs out of the employee, while the peers will have a good handle on what is and is not possible to do given a certain injury.

3. Consult the Doctor

While coming up with the program, it’s also important to run the program by the doctor in charge of the employee’s recovery. The doctor may voice any concerns he or she has about the program if they notice a task on the program that could physically deteriorate the employee.

It is in both the company’s and the employee’s best interest to listen to the advice given by the consulting physician. If that doesn’t happen, then there’s a chance that the recovery process could be delayed even further, costing the company in lost production and the employee in lost wages as well as medical hardship.

4. Use Time-Based Milestones

Without time-based deadlines, tasks are meaningless. In order for the modified duty program to work well, it has to incorporate SMART, time-based milestones. These milestones could be in accordance with the recovery milestones set by the physician.

The employee should be able to graduate to harder and harder tasks until he or she is basically completing the same tasks and responsibilities of the role that he or she was in prior to the accident.

5. Establish a Chain of Contact

One of the most difficult parts of modified duty work is staying in contact with the employee when he or she is recuperating at home. Avoid any communication struggles by setting in place a clear chain of contact for the employee to follow.

Whoever the employee is supposed to contact should be knowledgeable about the employee’s role as well as the employee’s condition. This could be a supervisor, for instance, who has been briefed about the employee’s medical difficulties.

6. Incentivize Good Performance

As with any other employer-employee relationship, it’s crucial to incentivize good performance to ensure maximum output. If the doctor permits, see if you can graduate the employee to harder tasks and better pay dependent on their performance completing the tasks in the modified duty program.

It will give the recovering employee something to work towards. In times when the employee is no doubt very stressed about his or her future with the company and their contribution to the team, it can go a long way towards easing their mind about their job security.

7. Make the Employee Feel Like a Part of the Team

Last but not least, make the employee feel like a part of the team just as he or she was prior to the accident. There shouldn’t be a change in how the team views or interacts with the individual, medical allowances notwithstanding.

If the employee in question is putting forth the effort to complete everything required of them in the modified duty program, then there’s no reason why they should be treated as a second-class citizen. Make sure that the supervisors and the rest of the team are briefed on this so that they can be intentional about welcoming the employee back into the company culture.

Return to Work Programs

There you have it — with these strategies under your belt, you’re all ready to start building out the right modified duty return to work program for your injured employee. Not every company does this for their injured employees, but the research backs up that employees who are put on light duty programs recover faster and are able to ramp up quicker once they take on their former role. 

By spending the time and effort now to develop the modified duty program, you’re basically guaranteeing yourself that the employee who comes back to work will be just as productive of an asset to the team as they were prior to the incident.

For more business advice, be sure to take some time to check out the rest of the articles on the website!

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