Workers’ compensation and returning to work: an overview

Jeffrey S. Gross

Many times, when we consider the topic of workers’ compensation claims and benefits, the focus is on the entry stages of the claim process. Questions that usually come up include: What injuries may qualify for workers’ compensation, how to file a claim, and what to do if the employer’s insurer resists the claim?

Sometimes, it is tempting to forget that one of the objectives of workers’ compensation is to return an injured worker to employment to whatever extent that is possible. Aside from providing benefits to help pay for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and disability payments for long-term or permanent effects of injuries, workers’ compensation offers other benefits designed to ease the injured worker’s reentry into the workforce. One such benefit is vocational training.

An important objective of vocational training is to qualify a worker for a job other than what he or she was doing at the time of the injury. It can be an unfortunate consequence of a workplace accident that an individual may not be able to return to the same job.

In fact, there is no legal requirement under workers’ compensation law for an employer to offer returning workers the same positions that they occupied before being injured. Vocational training provides an alternative to enforced long-term unemployment for people who must adapt to new workplace realities.

A different option for some workers is an employer’s offer of a different type of job instead of vocational training. Again, an employer is not obligated to offer the returning employee the same job. Sometimes, offering a different job is a faster and less costly way to get an injured worker back to work again without retraining.

Regardless of the type of workers’ compensation benefit, if you or a loved one has been injured on the job, it may be beneficial to consult with a workers’ compensation law firm to help determine your rights under Pennsylvania law.

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