Your job gives you purpose and meaning. It also pays the bills. So, while you’re recovering from your workplace injury, you may hope to return to work once you’ve healed. But before you do, it’s important to consider the right time to come back, especially if your job involves demanding physical labor.
You may think about coming back early due to employer pressure or personal reasons. And if you’ve healed enough to return, you may wonder whether your injury will change how you perform your job. When receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it’s important to ask whether it’s better to return or continue to recover. In many cases, the answer depends on how severe your injury is, what your required job duties are, and how accommodating your employer is.
You can make this decision easier for yourself by addressing three questions.
Can my employer make me return to work if I’m still recovering?
In most cases, they can’t. Even if your employer gives you a formal notice, that doesn’t mean you have to come back. That’s if you can prove you’re still healing and that returning at the stage you’re in could slow your recovery or make things worse.
How can I prove that I’m still recovering?
You’ll need specific evidence to prove that you’re still recovering from your injury. You can work with your physician and start gathering documentation to strengthen your case. Some examples of evidence you can provide include the following:
- Medical prognoses: Data showing the recovery rates and average time it takes for your injury to fully heal.
- Medical bills: Invoices from physical therapy sessions, meetings with counselors, physician checkups, and other medical appointments that show you’re still going through the recovery process.
- Professional testimonies: A note from an experienced medical professional who specializes in the type of injury you have and their opinion on your recovery status.
- Medical records: Can include injury-related diagnostic tests, prescriptions to help with your injury, subjective complaints you’ve made about your injuries, and injury observations from your primary physician or other medical professionals.
Insurers, employers, and workers’ compensation administrators in North Carolina and Virginia can view pertinent records. However, they can’t view your entire medical history unless you give them permission.
Can I get modified job duties when I return to work?
In some cases, you may return to work before you’ve fully recovered. But if you do, some of the tasks you did before could make your injury worse or cause further harm.
In that case, you and your physician can request work restrictions that tell your employer what job duties you can and can’t perform. Depending on the type of injury you have and its severity, you can request two types of restrictions.
- Temporary work restrictions: Accommodations that can temporarily limit or change your job duties. Your employer can help you make these adjustments and gradually lift them as you get closer to healing fully.
- Permanent work restrictions: Accommodations that can permanently limit or change your job duties. These work restrictions are put in place when your injury results in permanent disability or ailment that prevent you from performing certain aspects of your job.
Whether your job restrictions are temporary or permanent, they can protect you from performing tasks that could reinjure you. Some examples of those tasks include lifting heavy objects, working on uneven or unstable grounds, enduring stressful and emotional situations (depending on the job, and working with certain chemicals or hazardous materials.
You can also use work restrictions to request light-duty, modified, or sedentary tasks. Work with your physician and employer to find suitable duties that align with your medical needs.
Once you’re back on the job, you may want to keep a copy of your work restrictions on hand. This is especially important if a manager, supervisor, or co-worker asks you to perform a task that could harm you.
Return to work when it’s right for you
A workplace injury can change your life. You may find that the healing process can come with many ups and downs and may take longer than you anticipated. However, by working with trusted medical professionals and sticking to your treatment plan, you might return to work without slowing your recovery.