Top 10 Myths of Return to Work Issues

Myths about returning employees to work after an accident or injury.


1) Employees must be able to do 100 percent of their job tasks before returning to work.

Reality: Not so. Employees regain their ability to work incrementally and can therefore transition back into the workplace gradually. In most cases, work tasks can be modified for short periods of time without reducing the overall productivity of an organization

2) Individuals who return to work in a transitional capacity from non-work related disabilities will re-injure themselves and claim workers’ compensation benefits.

Reality: There is no research to support what is commonly called the “disability migration” myth. However, in workplaces where there is limited risk management of non-occupational lost time or there is a clear incentive to avoid any workers’ compensation claims, this migration may occur.

3) It’s the insurance carrier’s exclusive responsibility to bring the employee’s back to work in a timely manner.

Reality: The job of returning employees to work is the result of a partnership among the insurance carrier, employer, employee and physician. HNI’s Post Loss Specialist is also a crucial advisor in this timely return to work.

4) People who are ill or injured need total rest and removal from everyday life in order to recover.

Reality: People heal from injuries and illnesses incrementally. Recovery progresses quickly and successfully when there is a combination of early mobilization treatment and increased transitions back to a normal way of living.

5) Light duty is an effective way to return employees to full productivity.

Reality: Light duty can be static or open-ended. A Company should plan for a planned transitional return to full productivity.   This will allow the employee to become reconditioned and build up the tolerance they need to resume full job duties.

6) Most employees want to stay out of work as long as possible.

Reality: Don’t be a skeptic. Sure, there are a small percentage of employees who have this mindset, but most can and do return to work.

7) Employers can successfully manage return-to-work by focusing their efforts on a single benefit program, such as workers compensation.

Reality: Any attempts to manage lost time must ensure that return-to-work programming is applied to all benefit programs including short term and long term disability.

8) Physicians always offer work restrictions based on solid knowledge of job demands and know when a patient is ready to return to work.

Reality: As an employer, you hold essential information about specific workplace policies and job demands. A physician isolated from your input may unnecessarily limit the patient’s work options.

9) Return-to-work accommodations cost too much.

Reality: You can’t afford not to! Not only will having an employee at work increase productivity it will also help reduce workers’ compensation and other insurance costs.

10) The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prohibits employers from requiring participation in a return-to-work program.

Reality: The FMLA guidelines do permit you to end an individual’s lost-time benefits should modified work consistent with the medical restrictions are offered to and refused by the employee.

Debunking return-to-work myths is the first step in reducing the impact of lost time and eventually effecting positive changes in your organization. For additional information on the tools necessary to change the negative and costly though processes outlined above, please contact


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