Return-to-Work (RTW) Program Guidelines

Purpose
Scope
Objectives
Eligibility
Type of Work
Salary
Unable to Report
Medical Re-evaluation
Employee Responsibility
Failure to Participate
Supervisor’s Responsibilities
RTW Program Coordination
Documentation
Appeals
FAQ

Related forms:

bullet RTW essential functions


bullet RTW transitional assignment


bullet
RTW physical assessment (contains no health-protected information)

Purpose

It is the intent of the University of Georgia Return to Work (RTW) Program to provide transitional or modified duty assignments for employees who are temporarily disabled due to a workplace injury or illness. Each department will attempt to accommodate employees who cannot perform some of the essential duties of their job. This document provides guidelines for administering a RTW program to limit the number of lost workdays an injured or ill employee may incur by providing meaningful work of a restricted or limited nature. [Back to top]


Scope

The University reserves the right to revoke, change, or supplement program guidelines at any time without notice. These guidelines are not intended as a guarantee of continuity of benefits or rights. No permanent employment for any term is intended or can be implied by this policy.

Participation in the RTW Program shall not be construed as acceptance, acknowledgement, or recognition by the University, its management, or its employees that an employee has a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990. If an employee sustains an injury or illness resulting in disability under ADA it is the employee’s responsibility to inform his or her supervisor or other person in a responsible management position that a reasonable accommodation is being requested to perform the essential functions of their job.

This program will not apply in the case that an employee becomes permanently, totally disabled as a result of a workplace injury or illness. [Back to top]

Objectives

The objectives of the UGA RTW Program are to:

  • Allow the employee to remain in the work force and resume productive employment as soon as possible.
  • Enable the worker to gradually overcome physical restrictions through a transitional period of modified-duty, work reconditioning assignments.
  • Comply with all applicable parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and with all appropriate parts of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Comply with all applicable state laws [Back to top]

Eligibility

All University of Georgia full-time, part-time, benefits-eligible and temporary employees who have sustained a job related injury or illness in the course of their work.  Volunteers are not eligible for this program. [Back to top]

Type of Work

The University will attempt to provide temporary transitional duty whenever possible and practical, and will cooperate in every way possible to provide regular duties on a limited basis, modified duty, and/or special assignments for the recovering employee. Whenever possible, attempts will be made to allow the employee to remain in his or her original classification or job function with modified duties.

The assignment to regular duty, modified duty and/or special assignment will be determined by the RTW Coordinator and by the supervisor of the area in which the employee will be working after taking into consideration the employee's physical restrictions, per the RTW Physical Assessment Form.

The University maintains the right to assign employees on modified duty to any job and/or shift which they are capable of performing that will not exceed their physical restrictions. Job availability for work-related injuries/illnesses will take precedence over non work-related injuries/illnesses.

An employee will be reinstated to his/her original position, classification and salary upon receipt of a completed Return to Work form certifying the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of their original position. [Back to top]

Salary

The hourly/salary rate shall be the same hourly/salary rate the employee was earning prior to the work related injury/illness, unless otherwise approved by the University of Georgia Associate Vice President for Human Resources or designee. [Back to top]


Unable to Report

Any employee, who is unable to report for work due to a workplace injury or illness, must notify the supervisor.

The injured employee may be asked to produce appropriate fitness-for-duty documentation regarding his or her condition to verify there has or has not been a change in his/her status as it affects returning to work. [Back to top]


Fitness for Duty Re-evaluation

An employee may be asked to see a physician that the University designates for a fitness-for-duty exam. The department will be responsible for the costs of this examination. [Back to top]

Employee's Responsibilities

The employee shall be responsible to report all job-related injuries or illnesses and follow his/her department’s established “Work Related Injury” protocols.

The employee will report all physical restrictions to the RTW Coordinator and to his/her immediate supervisor. The employee shall report to the RTW Coordinator and his/her supervisor any changes in job-related restrictions within 24 hours of those changes. All changes must be supported by the RTW Physical Assessment Form.

The employee shall be responsible for ensuring that the RTW Coordinator and supervisor have current contact information for the employee.

The employee shall adhere to, and be responsible for following, all medical advice and directives as prescribed by the treating physician, nurse, or other medically qualified professional. The employee should question any medical directives which may not be clearly understood.

The employee shall not perform any activity which is not in accord with job-related restrictions, both on and off the job. If the employee feels that tasks have been assigned which violate these restrictions, he/she should immediately inform his or her supervisor. Failure to adhere to all work-related medical restrictions may result in disciplinary action.

If the employee requires follow-up treatment or a doctor's appointment which cannot be scheduled during his or her non-working time, the employee will be responsible for using his/her own leave time (sick/annual).  Leave requests will be made in accordance with established unit procedures.
pointerView the DOAS Supervisor Training Video: http://podcasting.gcsu.edu/4DCGI/Podcasting/UGA/Episodes/25959/47117753.mp4

[Back to top]

Failure to Participate

Eligible employees who fail to participate in the RTW program will be reported to the Department of Administrative Services (DOAS).

Employees who are assigned to modified duty are expected to keep medical appointments and participate in follow-up rehabilitation treatment as necessary. [Back to top]

Supervisor's Responsibilities

The supervisor will ensure that all reported job-related injuries are handled in accordance with UGA's established “Work Related Injury” protocols.

If the essential job functions for the employee's position are not documented in the iPAWS system, the supervisor should complete the Essential Functions form and submit it to the unit RTW Coordinator.

The supervisor should provide to the injured employee a blank copy of the Physical Assessment Form. The employee should take this form to his/her physician for completion. Once completed, the employee should give the form to the  RTW coordinator. The Physical Assessment form contains no health-protected information.

The supervisor will develop a RTW plan within one week after receipt of the properly completed Physical Assessment Form. The supervisor will forward all applicable information, including completed forms and other documentation, to the RTW coordinator.

Supervisors will coordinate with the RTW Coordinator to direct employees to jobs which are compatible with their physical restrictions. If no jobs are available within the home department, the supervisor and the RTW Coordinator should consider all options. When a modified duty position is identified, the supervisor of the transitional position should complete the Transitional Assignment form and submit it to the RTW coordinator.

The supervisor for the area in which the injured employee is assigned for modified duty shall ensure that the employee is complying with job-related restrictions as noted on the Physical Assessment Form. All questions regarding the physical restrictions should be directed to the RTW Coordinator or Human Resources.

Before an employee can return to his/her original position, the supervisor will ensure that the employee receives a return-to-work release from his/her physician.

HR & RTW Program Coordination

All University units should have a RTW Program Coordinator.  The coordinator’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Ensure compliance with all RTW procedures.
  • Working with managers on transitional duty for an employee, based on restrictions specified by the physician.
  • Consider a transitional or modified work assignment for an employee, either in the original work unit or in another unit which might have suitable work.
  • Coordinate transitional assignment plan with appropriate supervisor.
  • Ensure compliance with applicable policies and procedures.
  • Serve as a resource on the RTW Program, workplace safety, and other applicable programs within the department. [Back to top]

Documentation

The Physical Assessment form (fitness for duty) will be retained by the RTW Coordinator. Documentation is not to be filed or kept in an employee’s personnel file.  [Back to top]

Appeals

An employee who does not agree with his/her RTW plan can appeal the decision. The employee’s appeal will be forwarded through the chain of command. The employee can further the appeal to the University Human Resources Division after an appeal up through a minimum of two levels of his/her chain of command. [Back to top]


Frequently Asked Questions

Will RTW coordinators or supervisors maintain any medical information on injured employees?

No. RTW coordinators or supervisors will not collect or maintain any heath-protected information. RTW coordinators or supervisors should not have direct contact with an employee's physician. If there is a need to have communication with an employee's physician, you should contact HR's Faculty & Staff Relations Office.

Do the RTW forms contain any health protected (HIPAA) information?

No. The forms ask only for information relating to job responsibilities and tasks an employee (who has been injured and filed a Workers' Compensation claim) is capable of performing.


Is there a requirement to reassess the injured employee at 30, 60, and 90-day intervals?

No. Each RTW case will be reviewed on its merits and at an appropriate time (usually at 90 days), a request for a fitness-for-duty assessment may be necessary to determine if the employee can be returned to full duties. In some cases, an ADA assessment may be needed to determine a disability accommodation. Meanwhile, the employee should notify the supervisor if there are changes in his/her physical job restrictions, by asking his/her physician to fill out a new Physical Assessment Form and returning it to his/her supervisor.