Returning to Work from a Work-Related Injury/Illness Policy

Policy Statement

A staff member who is out of the work place for a compensable workers' compensation illness or injury must provide his or her supervisor with written medical authorization to return to work. If there is any question about a staff member's ability to return to work, the situation must be reviewed with the entity Employee Health department.

The staff member will normally assume his or her former position upon return to work.

A staff member with an occupational illness or injury who has been released to work but is unable to perform all of the essential functions of their regular job, or needs a temporary accommodation to their hours or schedule will be transitioned into the Return-to-Work Program.

Policy Details

Return-to-Work Procedure

Eligibility: This policy applies to all staff who sustain a job-related occupational injury as defined by the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.

The Return-to-Work program shall consist of two (2) phases:

Phase I - Limited Work Program

All staff with medically defined restrictions or needs who are unable to return to their department will fall under the coverage of the Limited Work Program for up to 90 days.

Phase II - Alternate Work Program

All staff who at the end of the 90-day period remain unable to perform the essential functions of their pre-injury employment, or suitable employment is not available within their department, will be eligible for the Alternate Work Program. The staff member's department remains responsible for 100 percent of the compensation for a staff member in the Return-to-Work Program until the staff member is placed into a suitable position.

Suitable Employment: A department's inability to provide suitable employment must be documented. The documentation of circumstances will be referred to the Executive Vice President or Provost for review and determination on placement.

Limited Work Program

The Limited Work Program is designed to ensure that injured staff with temporary work restrictions are provided employment consistent with their restrictions.


To provide uniformity in assisting staff in maintaining productivity and to ensure department accountability by providing suitable employment within the medically-defined restrictions during the rehabilitation process.


A staff member with temporary work restrictions will be provided suitable employment by his/her department for up to 90 days. The ninety 90-day period will begin with the date of release to limited or restricted work established by Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW). It will end upon the removal of the restrictions or at the end of 90 days, whichever occurs first. EOHW will define staff work restrictions and assist the department in determining the availability and appropriateness of suitable employment.

The Limited Work period may be extended beyond the 90 days depending upon the circumstances of each individual case. The recommendation to extend the time will be made by the chair of the case management team to the staff member's department head. The case management team will be chaired by the Rehabilitation Coordinator and will consist of representatives from EOHW, Human Resources, the staff member's department and others as necessary related to the circumstances of each case.

Alternate Work Program

When a staff member is not provided suitable employment or remains unable to return to work in their original department they are eligible for placement in an alternative position.


To provide uniformity in assisting staff with an occupational injury whose medically defined restrictions are permanent or whose temporary restrictions preclude suitable employment within their department.


All referrals to the Alternate Work Program will be screened for appropriate inclusion in the program with priority given to those referred from the Limited Work Program.

  • The Recruitment Office will provide the alternate work participant and the Rehabilitation Coordinator with a listing of job vacancies to include job demands compatible with the participant's work history, skills and work restrictions.
  • An attempt will be made to place staff participating in the Alternate Work Program in existing vacant positions. A staff member will complete an application with the Recruitment Office and become part of the general applicant pool where he or she will be accorded priority consideration equal to that provided laid-off staff. Documentation for non-selection will be required.
  • Time spent by the staff member as part of the job search process during scheduled work hours will be considered as time worked. The staff member must coordinate time away from scheduled work with his or her supervisor.
  • Staff participating in this program must follow up on all compatible job leads. Failure to comply may be grounds to discontinue participation and/or workers compensation benefits.
  • Offers of employment to Alternate Work Program participants must be in writing detailing wage, hours of work, starting date and the job's physical demands. A copy of this document is to be given to the staff member and another copy forwarded to the rehabilitation coordinator.
  • The participant must obtain a Fitness For Duty Release from EOHW before he or she can accept an offer of employment from a new department.


A staff member's placement in an existing vacant position will be considered regular employment subject to all related policies and expectations.

Monitoring: All staff participating in the Alternate Work Program will be evaluated by the Rehabilitation Coordinator after 60 days and 90 days in their new positions to ensure suitable placement.

All staff with medically defined permanent restrictions must be evaluated by Employee Occupational Health Wellness (EOHW) before subsequent job transfers within Duke. An EOHW practitioner will evaluate the requirements of the proposed jobs to determine whether they are within the medically-defined restrictions of the staff member.

Policy Number: 10.11


Workplace Health & Safety Policy