Return to Work/Light Duty Programs

Return to Work/Light Duty Programs


Safely returning to work as soon as possible helps EVERYONE !

Today’s Topic: Return-to-Work / Light-Duty Programs

A return-to-work program is part of a business strategy to retain valued employees and to enhance the productivity of the workforce. There are various definitions of return-to-work programs but, generally, they are designed to return an injured, disabled, or temporarily impaired worker to the workplace as soon as medically feasible. The anticipated result of a RTW program is the progressive return of the injured employee to full duty. The term "light duty" has a number of different meanings in the employment setting. Generally, "light duty" refers to temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties. In a recent study, 1.1 million lost-time workplace injury and illness cases resulted in more than 8.5 million days of lost productivity nationwide. Even more alarming is that if any of these 1.1 million employees are off work for more than six months, they have less than a 50 percent chance of ever returning to the workforce.

The Benefits

For the Employee: Effective RTW programs help injured or disabled employees maintain productivity while still recuperating, protecting their ability to earn an income and boosting an organization's output. By enabling employees to remain employed, a return-to-work program provides employees with financial stability. Workers also remain confident and competent in their jobs, and maintain self-esteem by continuing to work. For the Employer: RTW programs aim to accomplish three important business goals: 1) reduce disability leave costs, 2) maintain productivity of employees and work units, and 3) comply with disability-related legislation. RTW programs reduce costs by minimizing the impact of an employee’s injury or disability, including the cost of lost productivity time, permanent loss of an employee, and the use of disability-related leave benefits. RTW programs may also reduce the costs associated with recruiting, on-boarding, and training a new employee.

Key Objectives of an Effective Return-to-Work Program


  • Assist the employee to return to his/her normal work environment in an expedient manner.
  • Return the employee to a work level as close as possible to pre-injury earnings and productivity.
  • Avoid re-injury through work assignments and effective monitoring.
  • Employer must demonstrate concern for the injured worker and fulfill obligations to the
  • employee.
  • Maintain company objectives and productivity.
  • Encourage safety and prevention of injury.
  • Provide reasonable work opportunities when possible to enable injured workers to return to a work level as close as possible to their pre-injury productivity and earnings.
  • Ensure that the employee’s return to work is in compliance with all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, and your individual state’s workers’ compensation regulations and laws, as appropriate and necessary.

What is your company’s return-to-work policy?
What can employers do to ease the transition when employees return to work after an injury, or while
they are off work?
What can an employee do to assist the employer when they must be off work due to an injury?

Safely returning to work as soon as possible helps EVERYONE !

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