Original Issuance Date:  October 3, 2022

Last Revision Date:          October 3, 2022

1. Policy Purpose

The timely return of injured employees to productive roles in the workforce is one of the key components of the worker’s compensation mission. Bringing an employee with a work-related injury or illness back to timely work is therapeutic and can speed the overall recovery. In addition, the longer an employee is away from work, the less likely they are to have a successful return to work and the higher the employer’s worker’s compensation costs and related business costs. Return to work is a responsibility shared by management and employees.

2. Responsible UW System Officer

Director, UW System Office of Risk Management

3. Scope and Institutional Responsibilities

This policy has been developed to ensure institutions make reasonable efforts to make temporary transitional modified work assignments within the limits of an injured employee’s capabilities when the employee has been involved in a work-related incident.

Institutions may develop their own procedures and/or guidance to operationalize this UW System Administrative (SYS) policy. A guidance document has been developed to assist institutions with the implementation of this policy.

4. Background

The UW System is committed to providing an engaging, safe, and healthy work environment for all employees. As part of this commitment, it is essential that UW System institutions have a Return to Work program in place to ensure that employees injured at work continue to be engaged and have productive roles in the institution’s workplace environment.

5. Definitions

Healthcare Provider: Licensed physician or other medical professional qualified to render medical opinions on the injury in question, providing medically necessary treatment to an employee who sustains a work-related injury.

Transitional Modified Work Assignment: An offer for a temporary work assignment made to an employee who is recovering from a work-related illness or injury and who has received clearance from a treating healthcare provider to return to work under specific limitations.

Some tasks may have to be temporarily modified for the employee to return to work. Other examples of transitional modified work assignments are adjustment to job responsibilities, adjustment to schedules, reducing work hours, modifying the frequency or manner in which an employee performs a specific essential function of their own position, temporary removal of an essential job function, providing tools, equipment, etc. that meet the employee’s restrictions.

Return to Work: Bringing an employee back to work after a work-related injury with temporarily modified duties in compliance with restrictions outlined by the employee’s treating healthcare provider.

Employee Capabilities: Capabilities and limitations outlined by a healthcare provider of an injured employee’s physical, and/or cognitive and mental health capabilities after a work-related injury. Restrictions/limitations are usually temporary but can also be permanent. If restrictions/limitations are long-term or permanent, a reasonable accommodation process will be initiated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the institution.

6. Policy Statement

Employees injured on the job must return to work as soon as medically permitted to do so. The Return to Work program requires receipt, in writing, of the employee’s capability from a healthcare provider outlining the functional limitations for an employee’s return to work in order to determine if an injured employee may return to work in some capacity in a transitional modified work assignment.

The employee’s department will be responsible for the wage and benefit costs during the period of a temporary transitional modified work assignment regardless of placement.

The preferred placement of employees returning to modified work assignments will be within their existing employing unit. If that is not possible, the employee should be placed elsewhere in the institution.

Transitional modified work assignments may change as injured employee’s capabilities and restrictions are modified and to meet the needs of the workplace. Some tasks may have to be temporarily modified for the employee to return to work. Institutions may reassign work temporarily within a department as part of a return to work plan; however, institutions are not required to create a new position within the department; or lay-off or reduce the FTE percentage of any other non-temporary employee to accommodate the returning staff member.

A representative from the institution’s Office of Human Resources may be called upon to assist in placement opportunities, address benefits and other related human resource issues.

There may be unique circumstances for not bringing the employee back to work which would require the approval of the institution’s administration.

7. Related Documents

Wis. Stat. § 102, Worker’s Compensation

8. Policy History

First approved: October 3, 2022

9. Scheduled Review

September 2027