What is a Return to Work Program?


You may have heard the term “Return to Work program” if you’ve been injured on the job. Traditionally, these types of programs were introduced as a way to help employers save on workers’ compensation costs by allowing the injured worker to slowly transition back into the workforce. Now, Return to Work (RTW) programs have taken on a much more employee-friendly approach, helping to meet the needs of both the employer and employee.

If you’ve been injured on the job, consider reaching out to your employer to find out if they offer a RTW program. If they do, its best to identify any requirements and milestones and discuss any questions with the appropriate person.

Once you have been cleared by your physician to return to work, your employer will likely work with you to slowly ease you back into the workforce. This can come in the form of working less hours than normal, working from home or having reasonable accommodations put in place to make the job less physically demanding. The length of a RTW program varies by employer. Employers like University of Rochester set a goal of 90 days, whereas University of Alaska’s program ends at 60 days.

Return to Work programs can benefit both employer and employee in different ways. Be sure to vocalize your limitations up front and include your doctor when necessary. Returning to “light duty” can be a small step in the recovery process, if you listen to your body and the advice from your doctor.

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