Robert D. Paulbeck, Attorney at Law
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Should You Return to Work On Light Duty?

Accidents happen on the job resulting in an injury and medical issues sometimes keep you from doing your job. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect you in these cases. When it is time to return to work, there may be options to consider such as light duty work.

What is Light Duty?

Light duty is an option that is sometimes offered by an employer when an employee is returning to work after a workers' compensation injury. This type of position usually involves restricted duties or a different job altogether. It is also sometimes used as an alternative to FMLA leave (Family and Medical Leave Act), however, if you are entitled to FMLA leave, this does not impact the amount of time you have for the leave.

While employers are not required to offer light duty work, except in the case of pregnancy, some elect to do so as a way of helping an employee transition back to work. So, should you return to work on light duty? It is a good idea to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages before accepting a light duty position. Here are some factors to consider before making a decision regarding light duty:

The Pros of Returning to Work on Light Duty

  • Having routine and structure again can help you to recover emotionally from a leave related to an illness or injury.
  • Returning to work, even on light duty, provides an opportunity to earn your full salary again.
  • Going back to work on light duty with a defined transitional schedule that allows you to gradually work back up to full capacity can be motivating.

The Cons of Returning to Work on Light Duty

  • If an employer does not establish clear guidelines for when you can return to full capacity work, the future of your job can feel unknown.
  • Returning to work on light duty without an end in sight could lead to working in a reduced productivity position too long.
  • If you stay in a reduced productivity position without a plan in place to transition out of it, you may not build up the tolerance necessary to work at your full capacity again.

Conclusion

Clearly, an important consideration for returning to work on light duty is communication between the employer and employee. If a timeline and clear guidelines for eventually returning to your normal workload are not established in the beginning, it can be frustrating for both you and your employer. So if you are considering light duty as an option, it is a good idea to work out a transition plan with your employer before returning to work.

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