While some work-related injuries can be very serious, and require an injured worker to take time off from work, some injuries do not impact a worker’s job performance. An employee could suffer a foot injury while at work, but their job may only require the use of the employee’s hands and intellect. Injured workers who have suffered work-related injuries or illnesses that do not impact their ability to perform the duties of their job often wonder if they need to file a workers’ compensation claim, and if they have to take time off of work.
Sometimes workers with work-related injuries that do not impact their job performance will not report them to their employer because they see no point in seeking workers’ compensation, or believe that they do not have a qualifying injury since the injury doesn’t affect their ability to perform work. Instead, these injured workers just seek medical care through their health insurance and forego a workers’ compensation claim. But these employees should know that even if they do not need to take time off from work, they can still seek workers’ compensation medical benefits if they are eligible.
Getting Injured Workers Back To Work In Texas
Texas is a big proponent of encouraging injured workers to stay employed in some capacity as they recover from work-related injuries, if possible. Texas strongly encourages employers to take a proactive approach by implementing Return to Work Programs for injured workers. Return to Work Programs offers recovering injured workers alternative work assignments, or “light duty” sometimes at reduced pay rates, as they recover from their work-related injuries.
The reasoning behind the push to keep workers engaged during their recovery from their work-related injury or illness is multi-faceted. For instance, getting injured workers back into the workforce as quickly as possible:
- Keeps the injured workers engaged in their job;
- Maintains employee morale;
- Provides the injured workers with income;
- Reduces the amount of social benefits (welfare, disability benefits, etc.) that the injured workers may need to utilize during recovery; and
- Provides the injured workers with taxable income.
Getting Medical Benefits Through Workers’ Compensation
If a worker is able to keep on working despite their work-related injury or illness, the worker will not necessarily need income benefits through workers’ compensation because the worker is still able to do their job, or perhaps an alternative work assignment for pay. But even if a work-related injury or illness does not require the injured worker to take time off from their job, that does not mean that obtaining medical treatment for the injury isn’t costing the injured worker money out of their own pocket.
An injured worker who doesn’t need to take time off of work can still seek workers’ compensation medical benefits to help cover the medical expenses related to treating the work-related injury or illness. An injured worker who seeks workers’ compensation benefits but is still earning income will not need to apply for income benefits, which preserves resources for injured workers who truly need income benefits through the Texas workers’ compensation system.
Injured workers in Texas should only take the time off necessary to seek the medical care that they need and to recover from their work-related injury or illness. Taking off more time than is necessary places the worker at risk of being terminated or having their workers’ compensation claim denied.
Injured Workers Should Discuss Their Options With Their Employers
Many people do not want to take time away from their job, and feel helpless and useless if they have to be away from it. When a worker is injured on the job, but in a way that does not prevent them from working at least in some capacity, it is worth discussing the injury and the situation with the employer. A conversation about the worker’s injuries and ability to work can encourage the employer to see if there is anything else the injured worker can do to remain at work while they recover. There may be alternative work assignments that the injured worker can do, or a “light duty” version of the worker’s current job, which can keep the worker engaged and earning an income while they recover from their work-related injury or illness.
Sometimes the employer will require clearing with a designated doctor whether an injured worker can perform an alternative work assignment or light duty. If the doctor agrees that the worker can handle the alternative assignment safely without making the injured worker’s condition worse, then the worker can return to work during the duration of their recovery. The injured worker’s condition can also be monitored periodically to determine if the worker’s condition still permits them to perform work.