Light Duties at Work: Employer Responsibilities

By Chris Wagstaff.
03 Apr 2019

Part of the HR responsibilities within an organisation include monitoring and managing the health and wellbeing of employees.

This is because staff members may experience illness or injuries that can limit their ability to carry out certain tasks relating to their role.

In these cases, their doctor may issue them a fit note. This will let you know if the doctor thinks the employee isn’t fit to work—or whether they’re able to, but require light duties at work.

What is the definition of light duty work?

Due to the nature of employee sickness or injury, they may need to take some time off work to recuperate.

Alternatively, with a doctor’s fit note, an employee can request to work light duties temporarily until they’re fully fit.

Light duties are specially created (temporary) jobs for staff members with work-related restrictions that prevent them from carrying out all aspects of their job.

As there are no light duties at work laws, the availability of these tasks depends on the employee’s physical restriction—as well as the overall needs of the company.

Do employers have to offer light duty work?

No. This is because there’s no set light duties at work law UK businesses are legally obliged to adhere to.

So, you’re under no requirement to offer this type of work if an employee isn’t able to carry out all duties relating to their role.

However, to help reduce the costs associated with employee compensation, or reduced productivity, you can offer ‘suitable alternative’ work for any members of staff unable to carry out the full duties of their job.

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the work environment. The law protects people with disability from discrimination and allows them to work safely and productively.

Examples of reasonable adjustments at work include:

  • Adjusting performance requirements of the role.
  • Arranging/allowing flexible working hours.
  • Providing regular breaks.
  • Providing adjustable furniture.

It’s important to remember this isn’t an exhaustive list and the best adjustments are those that are tailor-made to your organisation and employees.

What is considered light duty at work?

For clarification on the matter, some examples include:

  • Performing office-based tasks.
  • Taking inventories.
  • Working a desk job.
  • Performing equipment maintenance.
  • Supervising/training other employees.

Introducing a business policy

You should consider creating a light duties at work policy to reduce the costs associated with extended time off for sickness or injuries. It will also help to support employee wellness.

It also helps to minimise disruptions caused by employees being off sick unnecessarily.

The policy should include wording to emphasise that light duties are temporary and depend of the needs of the company.

You should also reiterate that while there’s a policy in place, it doesn’t guarantee that work will be readily available to all employees at all times.

How to get light duties at work

Staff members with temporary work restrictions require a fit note from their doctor.

If light duty jobs are available, you can allow the employee to work until they're able to return to their original job specification.

Expert support

Contact us today for advice on light duties and creating a policy that works for your organisation. Speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Chris Wagstaff

Chris is the Director of Health and Safety at Croner. Chris is also CMIOSH accredited, an IOSH Mentor and HSE People Champion and has over 20 years working in Health & Safety.


Fiona Burns