My Doctor Says I Should Go Back to Work on Light Duty Now What?
Oftentimes following an injury, an employee will have some kind of work restrictions put in place by their doctor. When this takes place, the employee should provide the work status note to their employer. The ball is then in the employer’s court, and they can decide whether to accommodate the restrictions and provide light duty work, or not accommodate the restrictions, in which case Temporary Total Disability benefits must be paid. Below is a discussion on some different scenarios that can arise when an injured employee is allowed to do light duty work by their employer.
When an employee is under light duty restrictions, there may be situations where the employee is working for the employer, but is not making the same amount of money as they were while performing their full duty work. There are several reasons why this might be the case. First, the restrictions that have been placed on the employee may not only limit the amount of weight that the employee can lift, but also the number of hours that the employee can work. If the employee is limited to 4 hours per day of work, then he would not be making his full wages. A second reason why the employee may not be making as much money performing the light duty work is because the light duty position simply does not pay as high of a wage. If the employee was doing heavy work that paid $18.00 an hour, the light duty job may only pay $12.00 an hour because the work is not as strenuous or skilled.
Whenever an injured worker is in a situation where they are making less money in a light duty position than in a full duty position, they become entitled to Temporary Partial Disability or TPD benefits. These benefits are set out by Section 8(a) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Act defines the amount of TPD benefits as “equal to two-thirds of the difference between the average amount that the employee would be able to earn in the full performance of his or her duties in the occupation in which he or she was engaged at the time of accident and the gross amount which he or she is earning in the modified job provided to the employee by the employer or in any other job that the employee is working.”
Using the example above, the injured worker that was previously making $18.00 an hour and is temporarily making $12.00 an hour would be entitled to 2/3 of the difference, or $4.00 an hour throughout the period that they are working the $12.00 an hour light duty job. These benefits would be sent to the injured worker by the workers’ compensation insurance company and are not taxed.
Performing light duty work is a good way for an injured worker to continue with their work routine while they are recovering from an injury. In most instances, the injured worker will have a higher income while performing light duty work than being off of work altogether. As explained above, the injured employee is entitled to TPD benefits to move them closer to what they were making before the work injury caused a need for temporary restrictions.