When an employee is injured at work, the obvious goal is recuperation. No one likes to see people they care about in pain. And from a business standpoint, the hope is that the faster the worker recovers, the faster they can resume their duties. Sometimes, part of the healing process means taking on light-duty roles until recovery is complete.
But what happens if your employee works in an industry short on these roles? Do they have to take more time away from work until they are at 100 percent?
According to Business Insurance, some employers are exploring alternate return-to-work programs, which may be especially beneficial for employees who work in construction or other labor-intensive fields. The report states the off-site programs allow workers with medical restrictions to:
- Stay productive.
- Slowly acclimate to work again.
- Get paid.
- Remain covered by their employer's benefits (e.g., Workers' Compensation Insurance).
Essentially, the programs place recuperating employees in nonprofits to help out, and the employer continues paying the worker. Let's look at this return-to-work solution in more detail and see when the option may be worth exploring.
Why Light-Duty Assignments Are a Win-Win for All
One light-duty option is to enroll your employees in nonprofit work. But as an employer, you might wonder what's in it for you? Why pay your employee to do volunteer work?
The nonprofit work solution is viable if your business doesn't have light-duty assignments to offer. The logic is that giving injured employees light-duty work at nonprofits improves the chance they will return to their work at your business sooner. In fact, the Business Insurance report states one preliminary study found these programs improve the chance of an employee returning to work by 37 percent.
Plus, there's a host of intangible benefits, such as…
- Improving employee morale in light of a serious physical accident.
- Helping out nonprofits and those in need.
To learn more about the role you play in your employee's recovery, read "Workers' Comp Investigation Offers Small Businesses a Reminder to Communicate."
Where Workers' Compensation Insurance Fits into the Equation
Most states require employers to carry Workers' Compensation Insurance (you can find out your state's requirements in our Workers' Compensation Laws by State guide).
If an employee is injured while carrying out their work, this policy can help pay for:
- Medical expenses, such as surgeries, ambulance rides, office visits, and prescriptions.
- Wage replacement / disability benefits, which can typically cover two-thirds of the employee's pay when an occupational injury leaves the employee temporarily or permanently disabled.
- Death benefits, which can help provide support to dependents after a fatal work injury.
You can learn more about Workers' Compensation coverage in the post "What Do Workers' Comp Benefits Cover?"
Every state has different laws governing Workers' Comp, so what you can and can't require of an employee following an accident may depend on where you live. As the report notes, Alabama, California, and Maine allow employers to require injured workers accept an alternative return-to-work offer, lest they lose their wage benefits. However, Workers' Comp can still pay for medical expenses regardless of whether or not the employee accepts the alternate assignment.