As a supervisor, you play an important role in an ill or injured employee’s recovery and return to work. When an employee has the opportunity to return to work you can often help speed recovery by providing certain accommodations. Your organization and employee can both benefit from “transitional” duties such as modified work, alternative work or permanent accommodations. In addition, federal law, staff personnel policy, and collective bargaining agreements all require that efforts be made to provide reasonable accommodation.
Here are some suggestions taken from CalState’s Workers Compensation Supervisor guidelines regarding a Return-to-Work Program.
Maintain contact with the Injured Employee through supervisor/HR
Offer Modified Work/Alternative Work – Often an employee may be recovered enough to return to work and perform transitional duties before he/she is able to fully perform their regular job. Set guidelines as to when the employee is allowed to return to work. (i.e. is a medical release required? set timelines) Transitional work allows an employee to work in a modified, alternative, or reduced-hours capacity for a defined period of time while recuperating from an illness or injury.
Transitional work can include:
- Modified Work – Changing, transferring, or eliminating specific job duties within the employee’s regular responsibilities to meet the temporary work restrictions;
- Alternative Work – Offering the employee a position other than his/her regular job to meet the temporary work restrictions;
- Reduced-Hours Work – Offering less than full-time work to meet the temporary work restrictions.
Return-to-Work Process – The success of the Return-to-Work Program relies on the collaborative efforts between the employee and the supervisor. Both parties need to be part of the process to ensure its success. The goal is to facilitate the transition from light or limited duty to the resumption of the employee’s regular job duties.
The following is a typical Return-to-Work process:
- Treating physician releases employee to work with restrictions.
- Employee provides work restriction information to Risk Management/HR Supervisor.
- Supervisor/manger and employee engage in an “interactive” dialogue to discuss the possibility of modified work, alternative work, and/or reduced-hours work.
- Supervisor completes a written form describing employee’s modified job duties and/or work schedule.
- Supervisor and employee determine start and end date of the Return-to-Work Agreement based on physician’s note. (Period not to exceed 90 days. i.e.)
- Supervisor reviews agreement with employee and gives a copy to employee.
- Supervisor and employee complete and sign Return-to-work Agreement during review.
- Copy of Return-to-Work Agreement, and other forms to employee and forward originals to Risk Management/HR.
- HR Supervisor will contact department to generate a form for reinstating employee from disability leave.
- Employee starts modified work, alternative work or reduced-hours work according to the terms of the Return-to-Work Agreement.
- Once the employee has returned to work but is still under the care of a physician, determine where absences will be applied to the employee’s leave credits (i.e., sick leave, vacation, CTO…) for doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and/or medical procedures.
- Supervisor monitors employee’s work progress.
- Supervisor reviews the progress of the Return-to-Work Agreement and Employee’s Job Duties with employee at an agreed upon date (i.e., midpoint).
- Supervisor contacts Workers’ Compensation Coordinator near conclusion of the Return-to- Work Agreement to discuss whether the plan should be terminated, extended, or altered.
- Supervisor meets with employee to inform him/her of terminated, extended, or altered agreement. An amended Return-to-Work Agreement and Work Activity Analysis and/or Description of Employee’s Job Duties may be required.
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