Light duties at work

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Health Assured team

24 November 2022

From time to time, employees will get injured and need time off work to recover. But sometimes it can take a while for an individual to reach full health again and is able to carry out their role at work as usual. Especially in industries such as construction, cleaning and distribution.

This is where light duties at work come in. Light duties are used by many companies to supplement normal job duties until the employee is fit enough to return to work.

Hopefully, this doesn't happen often, but it is likely to happen at some point. So, when it does, it's important to be prepared and understand what this means for your organisation.

This article will cover light duties at work in more detail including what light duties are, what is classed as a light duty job and the legal position around these circumstances.

What are light duties at work?

Light duty work allows employees to return to employment after an injury when they are still in the process of recovery.

Instead of waiting till an employee has made a complete recovery, which can take months in some cases, the medical professional can issue a fit note with certain working limitations.

The note will detail if the employee is fit for work or not. The note will also detail the duties the employee isn't able to carry out, and whether they might require light-duty work.

Light duties at work are temporary positions that comprise less mentally or physically demanding tasks. This role is created by the organisation and, if possible, will last until the employee is fit enough to return to their normal job duties.

Light duty jobs allow the employee to return to work safely, whilst protecting their injury from worsening. All light-duty roles should be considered on a case-by-case basis; what works for one person, might not always work for other employees.

Do employers have to offer light-duty work?

Employers are not obliged to offer light-duty work. There may be some instances where there are no suitable role alternatives to offer.

Light-duties should be offered based on the individual's requirements, but they should also simultaneously take into consideration the overall needs of the company.

For a light-duty position to be created, it must be for the benefit of both parties. And this entirely depends upon if there are alternative work duties available. For small businesses, light-duty responsibilities may not be available.

For example, if you carry out work in manual labour, there may not be any other duties your organisation can offer that would be suited to your physical abilities at that time.

Light duties and the Equality Act

In some cases, injuries may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act (2010). The Equality Act protects workers from discrimination because of their disability and makes it a legal requirement that an employer considers reasonable adjustments to the working environment where required. These adjustments could include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Changes to the working environment
  • Regular breaks
  • Adjustments to responsibilities

Consider if an injury falls under this category and think about the reasonable adjustments you can make to roles if required.

When would an employee be offered light-duty work?

Employees should be offered light-duty work based on the fit note given by a medical professional The note will detail exactly what restrictions the employees' health imposes on their ability to perform their regular duties.

An example could be if an employee has a back injury that limits their capacity to undertake their usual tasks as a cleaner, they may be offered different responsibilities until the injury heals. The medical professional may recommend that the worker doesn't do any lifting or bending and tries to remain seated as much as possible.

In this instance, the employer may offer desk job responsibilities such as administrative tasks until the employee is physically able to carry out their duties again.

In some cases, light duties can also be agreed upon by the employee and the employer without the need for a fit note.

Examples of light-duty jobs

Light duty work is often less physically or mentally demanding than an employee's regular workload. The medical professional may note certain restrictions on the tasks an employee can carry out such as no heavy lifting and no driving or sitting stationary for long periods of time. Examples of light-duty jobs include:

  • Providing training to team members
  • Changing from physical work to office-based duties
  • Checking stock
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Working a desk job
  • Carrying out administrative responsibilities
  • Supporting health and safety developments

employee holding cleaning productsemployee holding cleaning products

Assigning light duties at work

Assigning light duties in the workplace should only occur if a fit note from a medical professional advises or if there has been an agreement made between the employer and employee. To prepare for these circumstances then it can help to introduce a business policy, so you have a clear procedure in place, especially if your workers are exposed to a higher risk of injury.

The policy should outline who is responsible for arranging light duty work, potential light work responsibilities and the process of agreement with the individual. Remember to consider both the company's and the employees' needs.

Health Assured can support you with light duty work

If you're still unsure about light duty work, or you need help considering alternative responsibilities when the situation arises, then we're here to help.

At Health Assured, our legal experts have years of experience in work-related legalities. We can help you decide if light duty work is an option for your organisation and draft a business policy so you're prepared in case an injury occurs. Get in touch with one of our team today on: 0800 206 2533.

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