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What should workers know about getting back to work post-injury?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

When New York workers are injured on the job or suffer an occupational illness, their priority should be addressing the injury or occupational disease so they return to health. Workers’ compensation benefits are a key part of that. As they improve, they will inevitably think about getting back to work. This can be a worrisome time.

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board provides information to those who are trying to get back to work. Not every injury, recovery and long-term prognosis is the same. Many factors are part of the process.

For example, a laborer who works construction or another form of physically arduous employment could have a tougher time recovering than someone who works a desk job. Regardless, people have rights and they need to know how to exercise them to maximize their benefits and be fully prepared for every eventuality.

Know the facts about returning to work

For some workers, their injuries are such that they are treated and recover without any lingering ill effects. Broken bones, sprains and strains are the types of injuries that simply need to be treated with the worker given time to get better. In these instances, the worker is likely to be able to seamlessly get back to the same job they did before.

In other cases, it is more complicated. In the previously mentioned example of the laborer, they could have suffered a back injury or suffered permanent damage to a limb which leaves them unable to get back to the same job they did before for the time being or permanently. As they recover, they can be given a different type of job with lighter duties based on their restrictions.

For those in this situation, the new job might pay them less than they received before the injury. They could be eligible for “reduced earnings” benefits to cover for as much as two-thirds of the differences between their previous pay and current pay. If the worker gets back to work but needs to take some days off, they can receive intermittent lost time. There must be medical proof that the absences are injury or illness-related.

Workers are entitled to medical coverage for life unless they have signed a waiver as part of settling the claim. There is also the option of being granted reasonable accommodations to help them get back on the job. This is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Workers’ compensation provides protection throughout the case

It is important to remember that there could be a gap between what the employer believes workers are capable of physically after an injury and what the insurer and employer believe. This can cause challenges as part of the workers’ compensation claim.

When workers are recovering from an injury or overcoming an occupational illness, they have the right to get back to work if they can. For some, that means modified duty. It is also wise to remember that the employer is not legally required to keep the job open for all workers. This too can be a topic for dispute.

As these cases proceed and workers are improving, it is essential to understand how workers’ compensation oversees getting back to work and everything it entails. Throughout the case, the worker needs to know they should not be mistreated due to filing a workers’ compensation claim or because they want to get back on the job even if they cannot do what they did before.