Have you ever had an employee turn in a “work status note”, “off work slip”, “ disability note” or even a “functional capacity worksheet”, and the only thing you know is the employee will not be at work? The purpose of disability slips is to advise the employer when the medical provider does not believe the injured employee is able to do any work in their current medical status or is able to work only in a restricted capacity. If the disability slip is properly formatted, it will provide the employee’s limitations for restrictive duty.
The quality of the disability slips covers the spectrum from telling the employer everything about the injured employee’s injury and disability to telling the employer nothing at all, or only that the injured employee will not be at work. The lack of uniformity can create issues for the employer in tracking the status of the injured employees.
Florida’s Division of Workers Compensation mandates every medical provider use the same Medical Treatment Status Reporting Form, DWC-25, which does double duty as the off work status report. Most states, however, do not mandate the use of a particular disability slip.
When the medical provider does not provide the off work slip and the employer does not ask for one, the employee becomes the person determining when the employee will return to work. Usually that is not a good situation. The employer should require a disability slip be turned in by the employee after every medical appointment. What happens when the employer does not require an off work slip is the employee recovers from the injury beyond the point where the employee could return to work. But the employee continues his “vacation on workers comp” until the doctor refuses to see the worker again.CRITICAL POINT: If the employee does not bring a Medical Treatment Status Form to the doctor ON THE FIRST MEDICAL VISIT, the claim will almost surely become a LOST TIME CLAIM….because the employee will need to go BACK to the doctor to get the disability form completed and this will require additional time to make and attend the next medical visit.
If the medical provider treating the employee is sending an off work slip that states “no work until seen by this office again” with no further information than the employee’s name, the employer needs to take charge and advise the medical provider’s office that is insufficient. At a minimum, the off work slip should provide the date of the next office visit and the employee’s current physical limitations. If the medical provider is giving inadequate information, contact the medical provider’s office and tell them an off work or disability slip is required after every employee visit that provides the following information.
- the employee’s name
- the date of the office visit
- whether or not the office visit was work related
- objective findings
- whether or not it is a pre-existing condition
- the specific nature of any functional limitations, for example
no carrying over ____ pounds
no lifting over _____ pounds
standing limitation ________
sitting limitation _________
walking limitation _________
- date of next office visit
- anticipated full duty date
- anticipated MMI date
- date of next appointment
- anticipated treatment plan
- doctor’s signature
The medical provider is in the business of providing medical care. Often the medical provider will have no knowledge about the type of service or product the company provides. The medical provider who does not receive any input from the employer has only the employee to describe the employee’s job and the job’s physical requirements. It is highly probable that the employee will overstate, not understate, the physical requirements of the job.
By requesting the medical provider provide a disability slip that specifies the employee’s restrictions and/or limitations, the employer can receive a more honest assessment of the employee’s ability to work rather than letting the employee specify the requirements of the job,. A properly formatted disability slip can be an excellent way for the employee to maintain the proper level of physical activity while working transitional duty during recuperation.
If the medical provider has an inadequate off work slip, feel free to create an off work/disability slip using the information outlined above. The medical provider office does not get paid extra for completing the off work slip, so make it simple and easy to fill out, yet informative. Offer to let the medical provider’s office copy and use this off work slip for the employee’s of other companies.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing, publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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