Offering Full Earnings to Injured Workers on Temporary Partial Disability
By: Donna Greiner, President, BABB Absence Management Services
When an employee sustains a compensable injury on the job and is released by a physician to only return to work with limited restriction, the employee may be entitled to partial disability payments. Temporary partial disability payments are two-thirds of the difference between the pre-injury average weekly wage and the wages paid for reduced hours or work duties.
If an employer can pay the injured worker their full pre-injury average weekly wage and eliminate a partial, we strongly advocate doing so. When you keep an injured employee working without a “wage loss”, there is no need for a Pennsylvania bureau document concerning indemnity to be generated. This can potentially provide great savings down the road, if in fact the injured worker were released to return to their regular duties and refused to do so. Once an “opening” document is formerly filed with the Bureau, an employer is not able to unilaterally “stop” paying compensation even when a medical report fully supports that the employee should be working. Instead, you must continue to pay benefits, and file for a suspension. This requires the retention of an attorney, and a lengthy litigation process to substantiate to a Judge that benefits should be stopped. The average length of litigation decisions in PA are 12 to 18 months. During that time, should the employee still not return to work, the cost of wage loss benefits could amount to thousands of dollars. At the conclusion of the litigation, should the employer prevail, you may seek reimbursement from the PA supersedeas fund for the payments made during the pendency of the litigation. However, this is subject to the funds available at the time, and, takes an average of another 12-18 months to obtain recovery.
It is our experience that those employers that do not reduce wages during periods of partial disability, have better control over their claims and obtain significantly greater savings by reducing unnecessary legal expenses.