Permanent Light-Duty, Real Life Success Stories

At Approach, we’re always talking about the benefits of light-duty work. But, light-duty is more than just sitting your injured employee in front of a screen until it’s time to return to the job of injury. Doing light-duty properly means bringing the injured employee back to work and adding value to your business while doing it. Otherwise, you risk your employee falling through the cracks, feeling forgotten and unappreciated, and actually having a slower recovery as a result.

A proper light-duty job is also one that your injured employee will want to do long-term. That’s because light-duty can now become a permanent position for your injured employee, complete with financial incentives and protection for your company. Let’s take a look at two case studies to see how permanent light-duty has been the right call for the injured worker and the employer.


Scary claim with a successful ending

Our first example comes from an Approach client in central Washington, where the client operates a farm, packing house, and office. It’s a great story of how a different perspective can create entirely new possibilities, even when the situation seems hopeless.

In July 2018, an employee was injured by a piece of machinery in the packing house. Aside from physical injuries, this young employee was quite scared both by the accident and what it might mean for her future.

The employer offered some temporary light duty positions, but the worker was not able to cope with a return to the packing house. She was medically certified as having PTSD related to the sound of machinery in the packing house, which prevented her return to any sort of work in that facility.

This area of central Washington did not have many other employment opportunities, meaning it was difficult to find alternatives for this injured employee. The employee was facing the prospects of a career cut drastically short. The employer was facing ever-increasing time-loss or even the prospect of a pension. The situation looked bleak.

Luckily, working with their Approach Retro Coordinator, the employer took a closer look at this employee’s work and education history. They noted that she had a higher level of education than many of her colleagues and could likely take on a job with more responsibility than she had in the packing house.

Early this year, the injured employee began a temporary light-duty assignment working at the front desk of the office, where she greets visitors and ensures security procedures are followed. Within a matter of weeks, her medical provider noted that she had increased confidence and that this new role did not trigger her PTSD.

Now, the employer has offered to keep this role as a permanent light-duty position. The injured employee has accepted the job and now has a stable job in a role where she’s comfortable. And, the employer is eligible for reimbursements and protection through the Preferred Worker Program, which can add up to more than $10,000. By working together to find a creative light-duty solution, everyone can move forward positively, and the claim will be able to close.


One claim – Multiple Incentives

Our next example also comes from a farm, where a 71-year-old employee suffered a rotator cuff tear in 2016. The injury required surgery, but the employer was able to offer light-duty as soon as the employee was cleared for return to work. The injured employee accepted a temporary assignment to a “warehouse maintenance modified” position and began continuous work in this position.

The employer was able to earn reimbursements through the Stay-At-Work program, which offers up to $10,000 in wage reimbursements, plus up to $3,900 for equipment and training.

However, the claim remained open into 2018 and there was still a chance the worker would be referred to a vocational assessment for retraining — not something most people would want to undertake in their seventies! That’s when the employer decided to make a permanent offer of the warehouse position, which the injured employee accepted.

The injured employee accepted the permanent position, which means this employer was also able to take advantage of the Preferred Worker Program. That’s right — thanks to changes in 2016, employers can earn Stay-at-Work and Preferred Worker Program benefits on the same claim!

Before these changes, employers would often get frustrated a year or two into a claim, allowing it to go to negative outcomes such as vocational retraining or a pension. Injured employees would get frustrated too, stuck in a cycle of appointments that could seem endless.

Now, as this claim shows, the employer gets an incentive to keep their injured employee on board, while the employee can get back to work in a familiar job and workplace, instead of facing the uncertainty of trying to find a new career.