What to Know About Returning to Work

two men looking at a paper in a warehouse

Fortunately, many people who suffer a workplace injury return to work. Depending on the extent of your injury, it may be days, weeks, or months before you can return to your job. Many employers and insurers will be eager to get you back to work as quickly as possible so they can stop paying full workers’ compensation benefits. However, it’s important that you only return to work when you are healed and it’s safe to do so.

When Do You Return to Work?

Each time you see your doctor for your work-place injury, they will make a note in your chart about your work status. Your doctor is the one to decide if you should be off work, working with restrictions, or working without restrictions. Do not return to work before getting the okay from your doctor.

You may be kept from returning to work until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning you’ve healed from your workplace injury as much as possible. The doctor may allow you to return to work before reaching MMI, even if you’re still being treated for your injury or going to physical therapy.

If you have gone back to work but continue to lose time due to your work-related injury, you can still receive workers’ compensation benefits. If you’re sometimes absent from work because of your work-related injury, this is called “Intermittent Lost Time”. To continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits you must have medical evidence supporting your claim that an absence is due to a work-related injury.

What Happens to Your Benefits?

The answer to this depends on a few factors, such as how much you earned before your injury. If your new pay rate is lower than before because of your disability, you may get part of your benefit to make up for decreased wages. This is known as a “reduced earnings” benefit.

You can still get medical treatment for your work-related injury after you return to work. You can also ask to be paid for applicable medical and travel costs to and from your treatment.

Your Employer’s Return to Work Policy

Every employer should have a return to work policy to provide a transition period for you to return to work with the intention of becoming fully productive at your former job. If you’re partially disabled from your injury, you should establish a work plan with your employer as soon as possible.

An effective return to work policy includes:

  • Confirmation that your employer understands the nature and extent of your injuries, and your current physical limitations.
  • A plan to provide reasonable accommodations to permit you to transition back to work safely, free from unnecessary pain and discomfort.
  • Open communication between you, your employer, and your treating physician with the goal of expediting your return to your former work responsibilities.

Can You Be Fired After a Work Injury?

Your employer is not required to keep your position open for you while you are unable to work. You should keep in contact with your employer throughout the healing process to have the best chance of returning to your job. Your employers’ ability to accommodate you is limited to the availability of a job with the company that meets your medical restrictions. If you are ready and able to work, but your job is no longer available, you may be able to collect Unemployment Insurance.

When You Need An Attorney

As we mentioned in the beginning of this article, it’s important that you don’t return to work until you doctor says you’re able to. If you feel pressured to return to work before you’re ready, are worried about losing your benefits, or have other concerns about returning to work, contact us today. We will answer your questions and guide you through the process of safely returning to work.