Expert Post: A new way for Colorado restaurants to get employees back to work after an injury September 17,2020

For years, Colorado restaurants’ biggest challenge was attracting and retaining the skilled workforce they needed in a booming market with historically low unemployment. The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped that challenge upside down, with restaurants grasping for ways to keep their employees busy and continue serving customers. Things get even more complicated when an employee is injured on the job. 

Studies show that the longer an employee is off work because of a workplace injury, the lower their chances of returning. In fact, those who miss more than six months of work have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to full-time employment. This situation is devastating for the individual, but also drives higher workers’ compensation costs for the employer.

One of the best ways to help an injured employee recover, and also keep employer claim costs down, is to offer modified work tasks. Modified duty is a temporary situation that occurs when an injured worker cannot perform some or all of their regular job tasks. It may include modifying their essential or nonessential tasks, limiting work hours, changing work conditions or physically modifying the workplace. But for the physically demanding restaurant environment, finding modified duty tasks can be challenging.

Restaurants still have options. Some Colorado employers choose to pay their employees to volunteer at a workplace where modified duty, including seated work, is available. This arrangement mitigates the cost of the workers’ comp claim by keeping the employee mentally and physically in the habit of working.

Pinnacol Assurance, the Colorado-based workers’ comp carrier, partners with ARC Thrift Stores across the Front Range and Western Slope to provide modified duty positions for skilled and unskilled workers, as well as non-English speakers. With COVID-19 concerns top of mind, ARC has health and safety precautions in place, including temperature checks, a mandatory mask policy and social distancing. ARC also performs a background check on all volunteers to screen for violent offenses.

These modified duty assignments with ARC are available any time, and can last from a few weeks to a few months. Once an employee has recovered, they can return to your restaurant ready to contribute. Pinnacol is working to expand the program by partnering with additional nonprofits in rural Colorado.

Do you have an employee you think might be a good candidate for a modified duty placement with ARC? Get in touch with Pinnacol’s return to work team at 303-361-4000.

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