Myths vs. facts on light-duty options

Do you offer light duty? Some employers gladly embrace this concept and willingly allow employees to return to work after a disabling illness or injury even if they aren’t back to feeling “100 percent.” Other employers regulate that no one can return to the job unless they are fully capable of performing every single task. Employers in the second camp may not realize it doesn’t have to be black or white. Keep reading to help demystify some solutions that every employer can consider.

MYTH: Light duty is not an option.

FACT: Most employers have some tasks that need to be done, but no one has time for them. Filing, making phone calls, doing parts runs and organizing materials are just some ideas. If you give supervisors free reign, I’ll bet they can come up with others.

MYTH: Light duty places an undue burden on supervisors. They don’t have the time needed for this arrangement.

FACT: Your disability carrier may provide expert case managers to help oversee a light-duty employee. In this situation, the case manager, employee and supervisor agree on a plan that outlines what tasks the employee will perform and the schedule for eventually resuming full duties. It’s then signed-off by the employee’s medical provider. Once the plan is in place, the case manager works with the employee to make sure he or she:

  • Performs only the agreed-upon tasks
  • Does not exceed his or her capacity, as outlined by the physician
  • Follows medical providers’ recommendations and treatment regimens

MYTH: Back to work at 100 percent or light duty are the only options.

FACT: Even if you are not able to create a list of light-duty tasks, consider a part-time schedule as an option. In many cases, doctors won’t allow the employee to return to full duty but are open to this alternative. This enables the employee to recover on the job, rather than stay completely off work. It also keeps the employee engaged, productive and working toward returning to a normal role.

The case manager should create a plan that outlines a schedule with gradually increasing hours until full-time status is achieved. And with a case manager overseeing the schedule and keeping the physician up to date, the employee can progress at an appropriate pace.

These are just a few examples of how looking beyond the black and white can benefit both the employer and employee. Disability case managers can help identify a myriad of solutions appropriate for the case they’ve been assigned.

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