Fact Sheet

Return-to-Work Agreements

Whenever there is a possibility of an employee injury from a work-related accident, the staff member should report to the designated physician, either the staff member’s own doctor or one recommended by the organization, accompanied by the supervisor to get proper medical attention. The physician should provide proper medical treatment, review the job description with the supervisor and determine if the employee can return to regular duties.

If the employee cannot return to full job duties:

It is critical for physician, employee and supervisor to understand the importance of returning the employee back to work as soon as possible. If the employee is to return under modified or light-duty, all job changes should be clearly established beforehand and enforced. In addition, an action plan or return-to-work agreement should be written to get the employee back to full potential as soon as possible.

If the employee must remain out of work:

Light Duty/Modified Duty

Reassignment to light or modified duty can help reduce the overall costs and length of disability. It is usually offered for limited time. Starting with less work and fewer hours than regular job requirements and are gradually increasing as abilities return until the person is able to fully function in the job. Employer, manager and employee must agree in advance what the restrictions will be and what the target date is for resuming full responsibilities. To make the return-to-work program successful, carry out ongoing evaluations, updates and review of the employee’s progress. Smaller organizations usually monitor progress less formally than larger organizations that may employ experts to evaluate progress.


“Under the ADA, the employer must first attempt to accommodate the employee in his/her current position. Light duty must be considered as a reasonable accommodation only if an employer has light duty jobs in general or if an employer reserves (vs. creates) light duty jobs for employees with occupational injuries. Reassignment must be considered as an accommodation of last resort,” says Ted Clark’s Legal Corner, Light Duty Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, from the NPERLA newsletter.



Workers’ Compensation, Long-term disability, Short-term disability


Number of programs needed: One-size-fits all or customized

Top management support

Time limits: four-, six- and eight-week goals;


leave of absence

Drug Free Workplace

A Return-to-Work Agreement is a written document that sets forth the expectations that the employer and the employee assistance/medical professional have of an employee who has completed mandated treatment for alcohol and/or drug problems. It also sets forth the consequences if the expectations are not met. This agreement should be used if an employee has violated the drug-free workplace policy and has been provided the opportunity to participate in rehabilitation as a condition of continued or re-employment. Use this sample Drug and Alcohol Return-to-Work Agreement or others to create one for the organization to be reviewed by legal counsel prior to use.

Developing a RTWA requires:


Employment Access for People with Disabilities

Risk Management: A Technical Assistance Brief, A Guide to Risk Management, prepared by The Loss Control Department, The Hartford, Copyright © 2000 by American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

University of Oregon, Employee Status Report form

U.S. Department of Labor, e-laws, Drug Free Workplace Advisor

Return-to-Work Agreement