Return to Work Programs: Transitional Employment Strategies

When injuries/illnesses create limitations and an employee cannot stay at or return to his/her original position, temporary modifications to the individual’s job will be required or an alternative position may have to be assigned or created. To be properly prepared to deal with this eventuality, employers should identify types of transitional employment strategies in advance so the organization is properly equipped to work with the physician and the Workers’ Compensation claims team.   Transitional employment strategies involve two types of work accommodations:

Modified-duty tasks involve changing the person’s original job duties or altering his/her environment to enable that individual to function according to the treating physician’s recommendations until normal activities can be restored. For instance, adjusting the employee’s workstation and/or equipment to minimize significant body motion is one way to meet medical restrictions. Bending, twisting, and lifting are often restricted for a time, and finding creative ways to work around these motions is part of the modified-duty process.

When no outlets for modification to a position exist, an alternative assignment might be necessary. Alternative work involves reassigning the employee to another job which either already exists or must be created to match the employee’s physical capabilities. If you look around a workplace, probably dozens of simple jobs can be identified to form a “pool” of supplemental activities from which to create an alternative-work assignment.