Return to work frequently asked questions
Why should you offer modified duty work?
Modified duty helps to decrease claims costs, which may have a future impact on your workers' compensation premium.
Can't the injured worker just find another job within his or her physical restrictions?
Injured workers can seek alternative employment at their own discretion; however, there is no law requiring them to do so. They will continue to receive workers' comp benefits until one of the following conditions is met:
- You formally extend a modified duty job offer according to the state's Rules of Procedure
- The employee gets another job at his or her pre-injury wage
- The employee is given a full duty release or maximum medical improvement is reached
- The employee receives a permanent impairment rating or is released from medical treatment without a permanent impairment rating
Can the injured worker use the time to volunteer at a nonprofit organization?
Yes; we encourage you to complete a formal job offer if you choose to place your injured worker at a nonprofit organization. However, you lose the opportunity to provide direct supervision for your employee. We strongly encourage you to offer modified duty work at your company rather than off-site. If you need help developing modified duty tasks, our return to work specialists will visit your site and work with you.
Will benefits automatically end once the doctor releases the worker for modified duty?
No; not yet. The injured worker must voluntarily return to work, or the employer must formally extend a formal modified duty job offer that adheres to the state's Rules of Procedure.
What if the doctor does not provide restrictions to use as guidelines?
Your return to work specialist can help you complete a letter to the medical provider outlining modified duty tasks you could offer the employee. Your provider may not know that your company can offer modified duty work. You do not need to wait for work restrictions from your provider before completing a formal modified duty job offer.
How long does modified duty last?
There is no mandatory time limit. We suggest a review of modified duty tasks every 30 days. This should include the periodic addition of new tasks as approved by your designated medical provider. The modified duty job offer should end when the injured worker receives a full duty release or is placed at maximum medical improvement.
Can an injured worker be fired?
Yes, an injured worker can be fired. If it can be shown that the injured worker was "responsible" for his termination, it may be possible to terminate benefits. Because the circumstances leading to the firing can be unique, we recommend that you contact your Pinnacol Assurance claims representative to discuss your situation. Benefits usually continue until the injured worker achieves maximum medical improvement, until they receive a medical release to regular duty, until they return to regular or modified employment or until they receive a formal modified duty job offer that follows the Rules of Procedure.
What if an injured worker moves out of the area?
An employer in Colorado is entitled to make a modified duty job offer in the same geographic area in which the injury took place. An injured worker who relocates still must acknowledge the offer. If the injured worker is offered a modified duty job within the Rules of Procedure, and fails to return to work, his or her benefits may be in jeopardy.
What if an injured worker on modified duty is not productive, takes excessive breaks and wastes other workers' time?
Injured workers are expected to be productive within their capacity. If not, the employer should follow its normal disciplinary procedures. The injured worker should be regarded as any other employee and held to the same company policies.
Will modified duty cause constant interruptions because of the worker's ongoing medical treatment?
The employer should contact the treating physician's office or clinic to see if appointments can be made before or after work hours. Other appointments not related to the injury should not be used as an excuse to miss work. If you talk to the treating physician, be sure the injured employee is present.
What if full-time work cannot be provided within the injured worker's restrictions?
Under Colorado law, an employer can offer part-time work at a reduced wage while the worker is on modified duty. The insurance carrier will make up two-thirds of the difference between the modified duty wage and the wage rate at time of injury, up to the state maximum.
What if the injured worker walks off the job site, stating he or she is in too much pain or cannot perform the modified duty work?
Pain complaints such as these should be evaluated by the designated provider as soon as possible. If the injured worker is offered a formal modified duty job within the Rules of Procedure, and fails to return to work, their benefits may be in jeopardy.
What if the injured worker fails to report to work?
If the injured worker is offered a formal modified duty job offer within the Rules of Procedure, and fails to return to work, their benefits may be in jeopardy.
How will the designated medical provider know what type of work your company does?
We encourage you to meet your designated providers and their staff. Give the provider information about your organization, including the descriptions of the various occupations that you employ, the industry you are in and the different modified duty tasks you have available. You may also offer the provider the opportunity to visit your work site and provide them a copy of your modified duty policy.
Can injured workers access any of their own claim information online?
Pinnacol provides claim-related information directly to injured workers through a Web-based application. The online application provides 24/7 access to:
- The name and contact information of the designated Pinnacol claims representative and other key Pinnacol staff
- Information to help explain and navigate the workers' comp process
- Benefit check information, including payment details and the scheduled mailing date of subsequent checks
- Medical information, including bills, records and correspondence from medical providers
- Claim-related correspondence from Pinnacol
Access to the injured worker online application is available by logging in here. Injured workers who prefer not to access information online can continue to contact Pinnacol by phone and email. Providing online access is only meant as an additional convenience.