Effective Use of Return-to-Work / Light Duty Opportunities

Return–to-Work/Light Duty Program Overview

A Return-to-Work program, sometimes called Light Duty, brings employees back to work after an injury in a temporary, limited or lighter capacity than their usual job. This is a proactive program that returns employees to work in the safest and most effective manner possible.

Implementing a Return-to-Work program requires a collaborative partnership between three groups: employees, employers and health care providers. This group will coordinate health care services, occupational rehabilitation and claims development. Making it a collaborative partnership will help to be cost-effective and caring to the employee’s needs.

Return to Work Program Benefits

A major benefit of the Return-to-Work program is a focus on an earlier return to maximum work capacity than would otherwise be possible using a non-specialized treatment plan. A cooperatively developed Return-to-Work program assists the employee’s recovery by making a phased-in resumption of their work duties an integral part of the overall rehabilitation process.

By keeping injured employees engaged in activities in the workplace, all partners in the process stand to benefit:

  • Injured workers maintain employment security, seniority, and benefits and receive personalized and effective treatment
  • Employers retain experienced employees while reducing accident and workplace costs
  • Health care providers are supported in their decisions and treatment strategies
  • Employees stay involved in the purpose and mission of the organization
  • The Workers’ Compensation system can manage rising health care costs and continue to provide high levels of benefits to injured workers and their dependents

Additionally, there are multiple potential secondary benefits for each stakeholder group:

Employer May Benefit By: 

  • Reduced staff turnover and training costs by retaining experienced and knowledgeable workers
  • Ability to participate in and contribute to the rehabilitation process
  • Improved morale and employee relations by offering Return-to-Work plans for both work-related and non-work related injury or illness
  • Improved accident experience
  • Completion of tasks that may have been delayed due to other priorities

Employee May Benefit By: 

  • Maintaining the employment relationship, which provides job security and financial independence
  • Minimizing the loss of physical fitness and muscle tone due to inactivity
  • Maintaining social contact and support from co-workers and friends
  • Focusing on their abilities and not their disabilities
  • Maintaining dignity and self-worth by remaining productive
  • Being able to return earlier to a healthy and productive life

Co-Workers May Benefit By: 

  • Improved productivity because skilled and productive workers are kept on the job
  • Minimized accident costs, including Workers’ Compensation costs as well as non-recoverable expenses such as employee benefits, the hiring and training of replacement workers, and the cost of inexperienced workers
  • Improved accident experience, which may be important for companies bidding on contracts
  • Completion of meaningful alternative duties that may not have otherwise been done due to other priorities

The Employee’s Family May Benefit By:

  • Continued income
  • Reduced medical expenses
  • Reduced impact on family relations

Identifying Jobs for Return-to-Work Programs at Youth-Serving Organizations

Of course, depending on the injury, not all tasks are suitable for a Return-to-Work approach. That’s why it’s important to work with an employee’s health care provider to determine which jobs are appropriate to get an injured employee back to work. There are a number of jobs that you might want to consider, but it should be noted that the list below is not all encompassing. Remember, you must have the health care provider sign off on the type of work before assigning any staff.


  • Take inventory of items (pre and post for specific programs)
    • Supplies, office supplies, art supplies
    • Sports league uniforms, staff uniforms
    • Sports awards
    • Arts and crafts, archery
    • Re-stocking first aid kits, medical supplies
    • Kitchen equipment/supplies
  • Detailing/cleaning
    • Fitness equipment
    • Yard work, cleaning around buildings after a storm
    • Exercise equipment: bands, balls – examining for rips and tears
    • Finding ceiling tiles that are broken or things that need to be replaced, such as handrails, ceiling tiles, pool deck tiles
  • Double checking safety inspection/sheet
    • Fire extinguishers – check expiration dates
    • AEDs: getting serial numbers, check dates on pads and batteries to see if out of date
    • Equipment in buses – flares, kits, etc.
    • All emergency exit/exterior doors working: checking doors you want light bulbs
    • Checking phones: are they working, are emergency numbers posted?
  • Admin
    • Updating documentation: sign-up sheets, roster sheets, equipment sheets
    • Volunteer jobs: checking references, organizing files, clearing out files, certification/COC need to be filed (as appropriate)
    • Following up on program registration, camp registration: documentation, follow-up
    • Take on-line trainings, come up with plan for the year
    • Phone calls: reminders to program participants, parents, etc. (Example: In kind donations, solicit ticket)
  • Housekeeping
    • Folding laundry, folding towels
    • Cleaning, mopping, sweeping, window washing
    • Dishwashing
    • Cleaning yoga mats


Youth/day care, early child care

  • Make sure background checks are complete, adequate for all
  • Reading to children
  • Cleaning toys, organizing toys, clear up clutter
  • Assistant: supervision in room, playground
  • Research activities for the kids
  • Monitor: Rides in/rides out


  • Inventory of lifejackets – cleaning lifejackets, clasps are working, no visible damage, stored properly
  • Checking chemicals/SDS sheets
  • Typing up swim band lists
  • Check in/check out person/greeter/member engagement
  • Checking umbrellas, grip tape on LG chairs, lounge chairs are in good repair (mid-season)
  • Swim roster
  • Phone call reminders to parents for swim lessons
  • Research activities
  • In-Service reviews/designing in service trainings (with Aquatic leadership help)
  • Survey staff for staff rewards, how do they want to be recognized?
  • Locker room, bathroom sweeps
  • Test. Mark. Protect. – batching together swim bands for Camp, After School programs – Yellow, Red, Green
  • Swim test administer
  • Slide monitor


  • Painting fields, pumping up balls, filling up water coolers, parking attendants, directing traffic
  • Greeters on game days, directing people, new locations
  • Phone calls to new participants
  • Coaches meetings: hand out packets, help with sign ups, rosters are together, teams are together
  • Go Packs: First aid kits, walkie-talkies for offsite
  • Set up/break down for the games: soccer goals set up/anchored
  • Inspect and monitor fields: check for divots, rocks, etc.
  • Assistance during games: Referees, man the clock, control the game, scorekeeper


  • Floor monitorL: talking with the class, orientation, new equipment, secret shopper, helping new folks, cleaning machines
  • Engagement: greeter, calling members – focusing on member retention, calling out moves or assisting in the class, monitor
  • If they have a following – how could they utilize this?
  • Cleaning yoga mats, balls
  • Audit preventative maintenance for the equipment – bolts are tightened, good repair, etc.
  • Climbing walls/ropes course
    • Check harness, helmets, heart
    • Monitors – during programming

Special Events/Program Events

  • Counting out badges, pencils, event numbers
  • Gift bags, stuffing envelopes, hand written envelopes, seating arrangements, name tags, setting up/breaking down activity, race packets


  • Marketing materials
  • Waivers
  • Quick checks
  • Websites
  • Facilities checklists
  • Guards on the kitchen/maintenance tools
  • Website – program information up to date