Employees occasionally experience job-related injury or illness, with a loss of time from work, therefore the University of Vermont has instituted this Return To Work-Transitional Duty Program, a program designed to support employee recovery, protect employee income, reduce workers compensation costs, and promote employee good will.
Employees recovering from a work-related injury or illness who are unable to return to work and fully perform the essential functions of their jobs, with or without reasonable accommodation, may still be able to undertake an alternative, temporary, transitional position at the University until recovery is complete. This transitional position will be carefully designed to be appropriate for the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of the recovering employee so that the work can be accomplished safely. An employee able to perform transitional duty will work in a temporary transitional duty position until either he or she has the necessary capacity to perform his or her normal position, or until the transitional duty job is terminated (as stated in the written agreement with the employee), whichever is earlier.
The Return To Work-Transitional Duty Program covers all compensable disabling conditions insured under Workers Compensation and is limited to employees with temporary impairments. Transitional duty positions, when available, are always temporary and are assigned for a finite period of time. Eligible employees must have a work-related temporary illness or injury with the likelihood of eventual return to full performance of their regular job.
To ensure consistent implementation of the program, all University department chairs, directors, managers, supervisors, and employees are asked to assist the Department of Risk Management in identifying potential transitional duty job assignments. Temporary transitional duty work, however, can be provided only in accordance with the existing workload needs of the University.
While the goal of this program is to return all employees to gainful employment as quickly as possible, the workload needs of the University must be considered. As a result, temporary transitional duty work may not always be available to all employees. A transitional duty position may entail doing some of the duties of the injured employee’s normal job, or it may involve undertaking a special project or projects previously left unaccomplished by the department. Transitional duty work may also be found outside the employee’s own department. At the time of employee illness or injury, the Risk Management Claims Specialist should contact supervisors for assistance to determine whether an appropriate transitional duty position is possible.
After a reported illness or injury resulting in lost time, the employee’s supervisor and/or a representative of the Department of Risk Management will contact the employee to determine when the employee may be available to return to work, to either full duty in the normal position, or to a new temporary transitional duty position. If the employee is unable to resume the full set of duties, supervisors will first attempt to provide the employee a temporary transitional duty position based on the employee’s job skills and capacities at the time of return to work.
After transitional duty tasks have been identified and discussed between the supervisor and employee, these tasks must be aligned with the employee’s capabilities as assessed by the employee’s treating physician. Periodically, all transitional duty tasks are assessed and adjusted as needed to assure that they are suitable.
With appropriate medical documentation indicating an employee is able to perform all temporary transitional duty tasks, a Return to Work-Transitional Duty Agreement will be signed by the employee, supervisor, and Risk Management designee, defining the transitional duties and the duration of the agreement based on the operational needs of the institution. Placement in the transitional duty position will then begin. The employee needs to communicate to both the supervisor and the Risk Management Department any changes in medical condition, concerns about transitional duty tasks, and other concerns related to the workplace injury or the transitional duty work.
Each placement must be handled individually to properly consider the unique circumstances of each particular case and work available. The employee, the supervisor and the Risk Management Department must all regularly communicate to assure the suitability of each placement to continue to monitor the employee’s ability to adequately perform the work.
A transitional duty agreement will remain in effect only for the period of time specified therein. This agreement will expire when the employee is cleared to return to his or her normal position, when a medically documented change occurs in the employee’s condition (in which case, a new agreement may be appropriate), or after the expiration date of the document. This term may be up to 12 weeks, but in some cases an employee’s physician may expect that the employee will need more time to recover and return to his/her normal position. Agreements for longer than three months must be approved the UVM Department of Human Resources.
At the end of the agreement, the employee is expected to return to the full performance of all the essential duties his/her normal job. If an employee is medically unable to return, the employee will remain on medical leave as permitted under the UVM personnel policies or contract provisions applicable to the employee and will receive any applicable workers compensation benefits.
There are two sources of funding for payment of the employee participating in the Return To Work-Transitional Duty Program. Whether an employee works in a transitional duty job in his/her department or another department, the department providing the transitional placement normally pays the employee’s regular wage, although in some individual cases a higher or lower rate may be justified. When a lower rate is paid, Workers Compensation Temporary Partial Disability payments may supplement the departmental share so that the employee receives combined pay equal to the workers compensation weekly benefit amount. If an employee refuses a transitional duty placement for which s/he is medically fit, the employee risks forfeiting workers compensation indemnity benefits.
An employee who is working in a temporary transitional duty position under this policy is considered to be on medical leave from his or her normal position, which will be held for no longer than a period of 26 weeks. An employee unable to return to his or her normal position, with or without reasonable accommodation, within 26 weeks, may be allowed additional leave from his or her position under applicable UVM personnel policies or contract provisions. Employee benefits, retirement contributions, vacation time, and medical leave accrual will continue in conformance with UVM personnel policies or contract provisions applicable to employees on paid medical leave.
This policy is designed to support and promote section 643(b) of the Vermont Workers’ Compensation law. An employee whose inability to work ceases within two years of the onset of the work-related disability shall be reinstated in the first available position suitable for the employee given the position the employee held at the time of the original injury. Participation in a transitional duty program will not compromise employer responsibility or employee eligibility for reinstatement under the law.
If the injury or illness is permanent, employees and supervisors should contact Employee Benefits in the Office of Human Resources to ascertain whether the employee may be entitled to long-term disability benefits.
The Department of Risk Management is responsible for oversight of the Return To Work-Transitional Duty Program. Questions regarding any aspect of the program should be directed to the Risk Management Claims Specialist at 656-3242. Employees, supervisors, Human Resources, Risk Management representatives, and other concerned parties are urged to communicate frequently and coordinate efforts to avoid problems and confusion.
In the event that a problem should arise, parties should meet to resolve difficulties as soon as possible. To assure continuous improvement of this policy, periodic discussion and assessment is necessary. Employees, supervisors, Human Resources staff, Risk Management staff and others should meet to monitor employee and department satisfaction, achievement of above goals and areas of improvement.