Returning to Work
We want you back. The focus of this section is to answer your questions about returning to work at Duke.
- I've been released to return to work with temporary work restrictions. What does this mean?
- I've been released to return to work, but: (1) my department was not able to hold my job, or (2) my work restrictions are permanent and I can no longer perform my prior job. What happens now?
- What is a "suitable" position?
- My department cannot accommodate my temporary restrictions. Is there other work I can do at Duke until my restrictions change?
- A Summary for Injured Workers of the Rules Governing the Use of Rehabilitation Professionals in Workers' Compensation Cases
Returning back to work, even with temporary work restrictions, is perhaps the most significant way you can speed your full recovery. Your work restrictions may relate to the number of hours you can work, the amount of weight you can lift, the length of time you can stand, and/or other physical limitations. These restrictions will require both you and your supervisor to have a good understanding of how the restrictions translate into your day-to-day job responsibilities. For example, if you have a temporary 5 lb. lifting restriction, both you and your supervisor will need to know what portions of your job that you may not be able to do, whether this task is a key job responsibility, what task you may need assistance to complete, and whether there are alternative job responsibilities that you can pick up while others are picking up a portion of your usual job.
If you are returning to your regular job and work schedule, you begin receiving your regular pay and the weekly workers' compensation payment ends. If your work schedule has changed or you are working in a different position that has a different rate of pay, you may continue to receive a portion of your workers' compensation wage replacement. Please speak with your Claims Specialist regarding the specifics of your situation.
Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW) is available to speak with you about your work restriction and the anticipated duration of those restrictions. In addition, Employee Safety/Ergonomics is available to assist you in evaluating the physical demands of your job and in brainstorming alternative ways to safely perform many job responsibilities.
I've been released to return to work, but: (1) my department was not able to hold my job, or (2) my work restrictions are permanent and I can no longer perform my prior job. What happens now?
Facilitating your return to active work is of high importance and a number of resources and policies have been implemented to support your return. A Rehabilitation Professional (RP) may be assigned to help in the identification of suitable jobs. (See the following link regarding the Industrial Commission's rules that govern the use of a rehabilitation professional.) Your active participation in the placement process has a significant impact on the success of the return to work efforts and you are encouraged to ask questions, perform independent job searches, and network with your Duke colleagues in further identifying job leads.
Your weekly wage replacement from workers' compensation generally continues during this job search process. Please speak with your Claims Specialist regarding the specifics of your situation.
While you are still in the healing process, a suitable position is one which enables you to add value to Duke's mission while maximizing your skill set and is within your physical restrictions. After you have recovered as much as possible (i.e. there may be some permanent limitations compared to your physical abilities before the injury), a suitable position must also be one which Duke would recruit and fill irrespective of whether you were a candidate for the job. Your treating physician and/or rehabilitation professional may, for example, review information about the position, speak with the supervisor for the position about the job requirements and physical demands, observe other staff performing the job, and/or request an ergonomic evaluation of the physical demands of the position in developing an opinion regarding whether the demands of the position are within your physical restrictions and abilities.
My department cannot accommodate my temporary restrictions. Is there other work I can do at Duke until my restrictions change?
Yes. A program has been created for staff members that have been released to return to work following an on-the-job injury with temporary work restrictions, but for whom the home department is presently unable to provide suitable work. The name of the program is the "return to work pool" and several departments have identified positions that require limited physical effort to perform and that provide service to the Duke community. The length of time an employee is anticipated to remain in a return-to-work pool position is generally less than 90 days. A participant's pay rate is based on the usual rate received by new staff working in these jobs. If that rate is less than your regular pay and/or you are working fewer hours than your regular work schedule, you may also receive a partial weekly wage replacement from workers' compensation. Please speak with your Claims Specialist for more details about this program.