Several studies demonstrate the importance of injured workers getting back on the job as quickly as possible after a workplace incident. If a work-related injury has prevented you from working, how should you handle the process of working for your employer again?
The answer is important because the longer you stay off the job, the less likely you can expect to return to work and complete your previous workplace responsibilities. Staying off the job for an extended period can cause incredible financial distress.
Timing is Everything
Every time you visit with your doctor, the physician should make a note about your work status. Your doctor decides if you should remain, home return to work in a part-time role, or assume the same work schedule you had before the incident that caused your injury.
Workers typically have to remain home until they have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), which means they have completely healed from their injuries. In some cases, a doctor might approve a return to work request before a worker achieves MMI. This happens when an injured worker undergoes physical therapy while at the same time getting back to work. Your employer’s insurance company can request an Independent Medica Exam (IME) to obtain a second medical opinion about the status of your health.
Returning to Work
Pay close attention to your physician’s orders, as well as any stipulations set forth by your doctor about what you can and cannot do upon your return to work. Read every document that you receive after a medical test because you might discover you have received a release for a return to work, even if the doctor did not explain that during a medical consultation.
When you receive your formal release for a return to work, you are obligated to inform your employer immediately about the release.
Never Disregard the Doctor’s Orders
File a copy of your work restrictions, if any, with both your employer and the workers’ compensation representative at your company. Although it is considered normal to want to get back into your previous work routine as quickly as possible, you must follow the orders given by your physician. Types of restrictions include a limit on the number of hours work each day, as well as prohibiting you from completing certain job responsibilities.
If you quit your job or refuse an assignment that is within the restrictions imposed by your doctor, then you can lose your benefits and perhaps a potential settlement from the state workers’ compensation program.
Employer Return to Work Policy
A return to work policy established by your employer creates a transition period that hopefully leads to you once again completing all your normal duties. An effective back to work policy contains three important elements.
- Employer confirms that it understands the extent of your injury and your present work-related limitations
- A plan to develop reasonable accommodations
- Open dialogue between you and your employer
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If your employer has not established a back to return to work policy that includes providing reasonable accommodations, you should meet with a California workers’ comp lawyer to determine your legal options. At the PLBSH Law Firm, we schedule free case evaluations with potential clients to determine how to return to work safely.
Call our office at (800) 435-7542 or submit the short online form.