Off-site transitional duty programs like Transition2Work are designed to supplement an employers’ internal Return-to-Work (RTW) program. As an extension of the employer’s RTW program, wage payment policy for off-site duty should be consistent with on-site transitional duty.
Long-term Benefits of RTW outweigh the Short-term Cost of Wage Payment
Research supports that injured employees who participate in a RTW program recover and return to full duty faster than those who do not participate in one. Studies indicate that effective RTW programs can save a company 30% in lost time days and 35% on medical costs. Fast return to work shortens the length of the workers’ compensation claim, which keep costs down and minimizes future insurance premium increases. When the employer pays the injured employee’s wages, the claim indemnity cost is reduced. The indemnity cost has a significant impact on an employer’s experience modification and on future insurance premiums.
Wage Payment Preserves the Employer- Employee Relationship
When an employee participates in an off-site transitional assignment, the employer pays the injured employee for their time in the assignment which maintains the statutory relationship between the employer and employee and makes the offer of off-site modified duty an extension of employment. At minimum, injured employees are entitled to their workers’ compensation benefits and the employers’ light duty wage should be as much as or more than the benefits. Paying the employee a wage during modified duty work provides an additional financial incentive that encourages the employee to participate and experience the rewards of Return-to-Work.
Payment of Wages Improves Employee Morale
In addition to long-term cost savings, continuing to pay wages will increase morale in the workplace by helping ensure the employee does not experience financial difficulties due to their injury. Also, allowing an employee the opportunity to connect to their community by performing transitional duty off-site while earning wages gives the employee a sense of purpose.
When you consider the full scope of long-term benefits early RTW can provide, the decision to pay an injured employee a wage to encourage participation in such a program should be easy. After all, if the employee were to perform modified duty at the employer’s place of business, there would be a wage paid for that work — off-site, light duty should be no different as he or she is still your employee and follows your company’s guidelines.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.