by Alissa C. Atkins, Esq.

Various market watchers have noted a trending decrease in the frequency of overall workers’ compensation claims, but the same experts note an increase in the cost of overall claims along with a similar increase in the frequency of questionable claims. Employers can actively seek to drive down the costs of lost-time claims by developing an effective Return to Work program. Such programs not only minimize indemnity exposure once an injured worker returns to the payroll, but may even work as a deterrent against workers filing those questionable claims at all. Anyone considering filing a questionable claim may think twice if he knows his employer will bring him back to work as soon as he is cleared by his treating doctor even for minimal activity.

In our experience, Georgia judges like to see light duty jobs being offered with as much specificity as possible, so that there is less room for dispute over what the work actually entails. Many companies now have written job descriptions for various positions, but this does not mean that an injured worker cannot go back to work even if certain duties of a particular job could be temporarily beyond her ability. If the tasks can be modified to accommodate work restrictions as necessary, the job could still be suitable. When using a WC-243 to return a claimant to a light duty job, listing only a job title with general duties outlined may not be as effective as an actual plan that indicates exact weights of all parts being assembled, whether a job can be performed sitting or standing, etc. Claimants tend to be more successful when arguing a light duty job was not suitable when there is more room to argue what the job duties entailed.

Does your company have a Return To Work Plan? They are sometimes more easily utilized in larger manufacturing facilities, but even the smallest companies can benefit from considering this option when an injured worker is well enough to return to the workforce if it can be done cost-effectively.