Transitional alternative duty (TAD) is an often overlooked tool available to employers working to effectively manage Workers’ Compensation risks and costs. Adopted in 1994, RSA 281-A:23-b, Alternative Work Opportunities was intended to protect employees from layoff or employment termination when that employee suffered a temporary reduced capacity for work due to a work-related injury.
Q: What is TAD or Transitional Alternative Duty?
A: TAD is intended to return the employee to the work capacity that was present prior to the work-related injury. TAD is meant to be temporary, and a transitional phase. Once it is determined that an employee has a release to return to work and there is no determination that the employee is prevented from transitioning into the job that they had prior to their injury, TAD is appropriate. The regulations then require the employer to develop an outline of tasks within an employee’s job description, review those tasks against the employee’s release to return to work, and prepare a proposal for return to work that can be reviewed by the employee’s treating physician.
Q: When are employers required to provide TAD to their employees?
A: All employers with 5 or more full time employees shall provide temporary alternative work programs to bring injured employees back to work. If TAD is required by law the employer should advise employees that there is a written alternative work program in place and inform employees of the established procedures to obtain alternative work in the event of an on-the-job injury.
Q: What are the procedural steps that should be taken by the employer?
A: First, obtain a release to return to work from the employee’s treating physician. Next, employers should provide the treating physician with transitional alternative work tasks for review and approval. Included should be an onsite assessment of the proposed tasks by an independent ergonomist or similar expert. Then, provide the employee with a written offer of return to work under the transitional alternative work program approved by the employee’s treating physician. Require the employee to present himself or herself for work on a specific date, at a specific time, and to report to a specific person. Lastly, it is important to inform the employee in the written offer of TAD that failure to present themselves for the alternative work that has been approved by the employee’s treating physician will result in a potential reduction or termination of benefits under the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation statute.
Q: What are the benefits for the employer?
A: The employer benefits from the employee’s return to work both in the actual value of the services rendered, and a reduction in Workers’ Compensation costs by the reduction in weekly benefits to the employee who has returned to work. When TAD works, the benefit to the employer is reduced costs and a reduction in insurance or self-insurance premium/contribution. Likewise, by accommodating an employee and enabling their return to work, employer/employee communication is enhanced and the relationship is preserved.
Q: What if the employee refuses the TAD offer or does not comply?
A: If the employee does not comply with the alternative duty offer, then the employer, or its Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier, can request a hearing to reduce or terminate benefits pursuant to RSA 281-A:48.
Q: What are the benefits of TAD for the employee?
A: The employee returns to work when they have the capacity to work and does so within the “protective” environment of the treating physician’s approval of the alternative duty work. The employee’s benefit is the opportunity to return to work and, ultimately, to be transitioned to the job they held prior to their work-related injury.