You need your employee back and their treating physician has released him or her to return back to work, though it may be with some work restrictions. The focus of this section is to help answer the questions you may have regarding your staff member's return.

My staff member has been released to return to work with restrictions. What does this mean?

Returning your employee back to work, even with restrictions, is perhaps the most significant way you can speed their full recovery. The work restrictions may relate to the number of hours your staff member can work, the amount of weight he or she can lift, the length of time he or she can stand, and/or other physical limitations. These restrictions will require both you and your staff member to have a good understanding of how the restrictions translate into your staff member's day-to-day job responsibilities. For example, if your staff member has a temporary 5 lb. lifting restriction, both you and your staff member will need to know what portions of their job that he or she may not be able to do, whether this task is a key job responsibility, what task will they need assistance to complete, and whether there are alternative job responsibilities that your staff member can pick up while others are picking up a portion of his or her job.

Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW) is available to speak with you and your staff member about their work restriction and the anticipated duration of those restrictions. In addition, Employee Safety/Ergonomics is available to assist you and your staff member in evaluating the physical demands of your staff member's job and in brainstorming alternative ways to safely perform many job responsibilities.

Ultimately, it is up to you as to whether you can accommodate your staff member's restrictions. If you determine that you cannot accommodate your staff member's restrictions, your department will be financially responsible for the charge back.

I can't accommodate my staff member's temporary work restrictions. What happens?

Your financial responsibility for their salary charge back until your employee is placed in a non-temporary, suitable position continues.

While a non-temporary, suitable job is sought, your staff member may be placed in the return-to-work pool. The return-to-work pool enables staff members to return to gainful employment at Duke while the search for a non-temporary suitable job continues. Your staff member's participation in the return-to-work pool is likely to increase the amount of your salary charge back. See below for more information regarding the return-to-work pool.

Do the charge backs to my department still apply if I had to fill my employee's position while they were out and no longer have a position for them?


What is a "suitable" position?

While your staff member is still in the healing process, a suitable position is one which enables him or her to add value to Duke's mission while maximizing his or her skill set and is within their physical restrictions. After your staff member has recovered as much as he or she is expected to recover (i.e. there may be some permanent limitations compared to their physical abilities before the injury), a suitable position must also be one which Duke would recruit and fill irrespective of whether your staff member was a candidate for the job.

Who places my staff member in a "suitable" position?

Staff members returning back to work due to an on-the-job injury are given priority status (similar to staff members who have been laid off). This means that other managers must consider your staff member and provide reasonable justification should your staff member not be selected for a vacancy for which he or she is qualified. Plus, a transition coordinator is assigned by Recruitment who is responsible for assuring that your staff member is placed in appropriate applicant pools to be considered as jobs open throughout Duke. Also, an external rehabilitation professional is often assigned by the Workers' Compensation Office to assist employees in identifying jobs within Duke as well as outside of Duke for which they may be qualified. Lastly, you may have insider information about suitable jobs that are opening up within Duke - your participation in assisting in the identification of suitable positions and communication with the managers of these areas about your staff member's qualifications and skills can help speed your staff member's placement in a suitable job. You are welcome to contact the Workers' Compensation Office for up-to-date information related to the job placement activities for your staff member.

What is the return-to-work pool?

The return-to-work pool is for staff members that have been released to return to work following an on-the-job injury with a temporary restriction, but for whom the home department is presently unable to provide suitable work. The length of time an employee is anticipated to remain in a return-to-work pool position is generally less than 90 days.

How does it work?

When the employee's home department cannot presently provide a suitable position:

The staff member is assigned to the return to work pool and is matched with a position that meets the work restrictions.

There is no charge to the department receiving the value of the individual's work.

The home department pays the entire salary and fringe costs of the staff member in the return-to-work temporary position. This may be an increase in the amount the home department was initially paying as a charge back.

The employee continues to be medically evaluated by EOHW to determine whether the work restrictions can be modified. The home department is notified each month regarding the employee's restrictions so the department can determine whether the employee may now return to the home department.

Is it better for my staff member to be in the return-to-work pool or working within my department?

The benefit of the return-to-work pool is that work itself is therapeutic - so it helps speed your staff member's recovery when you are unable to accommodate their restrictions. In addition, it helps keep your staff member engaged with working at Duke and furthering Duke's mission of teaching, patient care, and research. However, returning back to the home department, especially when the work restrictions are temporary, tends to have the best and quickest clinical outcomes...benefiting both the injured staff member and the home department.