Returning to work after an injury can be difficult for employees. Employers who do not observe the law can make the return even more trying. When employees are allowed or required to return to work, employer mistakes may be costly to both the employees' bottom lines and their health.
Common employer mistakes when employees return to work fall under areas such as:
Full Duty: Employers should not necessarily expect injured employees to be cleared for full duty the first day they return. Employers who demand that employees return to full duty immediately run the risk of reinjury, in addition to discouraging employees from returning when eligible. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) says that covered employees must be able to perform the "essential functions of the job" - for a returning employee, this may mean, for instance, that he answers the phone but does not need to lift heavy files.
Transitional Assignments: In ensuring that returning employees' job duties satisfy medical restrictions, employers should design transitional assignments to help employees become fully productive.
Which Laws Apply: Some employers may not take into consideration that their employees are covered by a number of laws, including workers' compensation, ADAAA and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Workers' compensation law cannot take rights away from employees that the other laws give to employees. FMLA creates protected, unpaid leave; ADA protects the jobs of qualified disabled individuals; and workers' compensation pays injured employees.
Employers have a duty to follow the law when injured employees return to work. The failure to do so can have significant effects on employees, who are likely to be in an unfamiliar and challenging situation.
Source: Ten Costly Return-to Work Mistakes