- Educating supervisors in the need for transitional duty work, and how current positions may be modified to accommodate physical restrictions.
- Establishing alternative job tasks (outside of the regular position) that could be used.
- Reviewing job descriptions of positions in which employees are frequently off work due to injury (maintenance, custodial, food services, bus drivers, etc.) to include accurate physical demands of the job (so the treating physician can review them).
- Establishing processes to make the return to work program work. This includes a process for tracking and ensuring follow-up for each doctor’s work status note, coordination with payroll and human resources, and documentation of modified job duties with written agreements.
How it Works
- The employee’s physician determines that the employee is released to transitional work and the employee is given a written release to present to his/her supervisor and HR.
- The employer provides a written job description to the attending physician.
- Work restrictions are provided to HR by the physician.
- Work restrictions are reviewed with the supervisor, HR and employee.
- Transitional or alternative work is found (employee’s regular job or alternative job duty), and an agreement is signed by the employee and supervisor, or leave options are discussed.
- The process repeats after each doctor’s follow-up visit until the employee is released for full duty.
When the Process Begins
The process begins when the employee brings in the doctor’s note listing work restrictions. The restrictions are reviewed with the employee’s supervisor to see if the injured employee can still perform the same job with or without modifications (in hours, tasks, body positioning, etc.). The doctor is provided with a copy of a current job description to see if and how the work restrictions can apply.
If the injured employee’s current job cannot be modified to accommodate the work restrictions, the district looks at alternative job duties with the school district that meets the physical restrictions.
There may be a difference in wage from the employee’s original position to the transitional or alternative positions. If an employee’s loss of earning power exceeds five percent, the Workers’ Compensation Trust may pay the difference in wage up to the time loss wage.
If transitional or alternative work is available to an injured employee within his/her work restrictions, and he/she chooses not to work, then time loss benefits can be denied.
Once a transitional or alternative position is found, HR issues a letter to the injured. This letter clearly lists the work restrictions, what the transitional or alternative work is, and when the next doctor’s note is due. It also states to the employee that “You are responsible for insuring that you do not engage in any activity that you are physically unable to perform.” This letter is signed by the employee and his/her supervisor.
A Cooperative Effort
The search for transitional duty is an interactive process between human resources, the injured employee, and his/her supervisor. (It sounds much like the reasonable accommodation process used for ADA accommodation requests). This process should encourage the supervisor to keep in touch with the injured employees; this concern can be a factor in how quickly employees return to work.