Tools that benefit employers and injured employees

The goal for every employer should be to return their injured employees back to work in a safe, timely and healthy manner. To assist employers with this goal and keep claim costs at a minimum some consider two beneficial strategies: transitional duty and salary continuation.

“From the injured employee’s perspective the programs offer a smoother transition back to regular duty, allows them to stay current on job skills, and maintains work relationships and financial stability,” says Todd Keserich, assistant vice president of client services at CompManagement.

“For employers, the programs help to reduce costs, keep productivity in the workplace and reinforce their commitment to the welfare of their employees.”

Smart Business spoke with Keserich to learn more about these programs.

What are the benefits of transitional duty?

Transitional duty is a method of returning an injured worker to modified duties or tasks that fit within the restrictions of the injury but are different than the job performed at the time of the injury. The program offers an alternative to downtime and allows for the retention of an experienced employee while facilitating a safe return to full and normal duties.

How are job modifications determined?

Determining job modifications needs to be a collaborative effort between the employer, injured employee, physician of record, managed care organization and rehabilitation professional.

As modifications are being developed, keep in mind the injured employee’s limitations, restrictions, functional capacity and physical capabilities. The costs of job modifications for lost-time claims may be charged to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) surplus fund under rehabilitation costs.

What makes transitional duty successful?

Although a formal documented program is not required by the BWC, it is highly recommended to utilize job analyses.

All normal work rules should be followed and, prior to implementation, any job restrictions should be obtained from the physician of record. An added benefit would be to have the physician of record actually approve the specific duties the injured employee will be doing while in the program.

A transitional duty offer should always be presented to the injured employee in writing and include a start date and time, expected duties, hours and rate of pay. A signature of acceptance or refusal should also be obtained from the injured employee.

Paying the injured employee his full salary despite actual hours worked or duties performed while on transitional duty may prevent eligibility for wage loss compensation, thus keeping claim costs low. In addition, the BWC offers a transitional duty 3-to-1 matching grant program to help employers implement a program as well as a 10 percent bonus if the program is successfully utilized.

How is salary continuation beneficial?
Salary continuation is defined as the continuation of wages in lieu of temporary total compensation payments by the BWC to the injured employee.

Salary continuation can be beneficial for both the injured employee and the employer. The injured employee receives full wages instead of the reduced rate of pay under temporary total in addition to avoiding any potential delays in compensation.

The employer, on the other hand, is able to avoid the compensation from contributing to the claim costs.

How is salary continuation monitored?

Employers should stay connected and monitor claims involving salary continuation by setting clear expectations that the injured employee will be compliant with treatment and provide status updates.

Employers should request medical records regularly to help determine if they are able to accommodate restrictions for a return to work through modified tasks within their original job or another restricted-duty job at the company with the ultimate goal of a full duty release.

If there is no progression of the restrictions or release to restricted or full duty from the physician of record in sight, an employer should consider establishing an end date to the payment of salary continuation.

Always consult with a third party administrator to find the right time to do so and provide notification to the injured employee in writing. ●

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