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 ECU Launches LiveSafe, a mobile safety app, today!

Return to Work Program

Research show that returning the employee to work as soon as medically possible is essential in properly managing workers' compensation claims, and it is better for the employee physically and psychologically.  Understanding this issue, the University has decided to implement a mandatory Return to Work (RTW) program.  This program is designed to raise the consciousness of everyone as to the need to provide transitional duty to injured employees, and the benefits that can come from such a program for all involved.  Requiring an employee to reach 100% recovery from an injury before returning to work may be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and lengthens recovery; therefore, it is not an option.  Anyone who is unable to perform his or her usual job tasks as a result of a job-related accident or occupation disease is eligible for the program.  The policy is to enable employees to return to work when they have sustained accidents at work that prohibit them from performing their normal job duties.  Recovery at work in a modified job will help the injured employee maintain self-esteem and the income level they are accustomed to, while providing valuable work to the University during the employee's rehabilitation.  The East Carolina University Return to Work Program promotes rehabilitation and enhances the recovery process of employees experiencing work-related injuries and illnesses, while maximizing productivity and controlling related expenditures.  The program will also foster compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and associated guidelines.  This will be accomplished thorough a partnership including the disabled employees, medical providers, and a multi-disciplined team of key agency personnel working together toward the common goal of expediting the employee's return to physical and psychological well-being.

Purpose and Goals

The primary purpose of the RTW program is to provide transitional work for employees who, due to a work-related injury or illness, are restricted from performing some or all of their regular duties for a temporary period.  The program shall also address placement efforts for employees who, after recovery, are permanently restricted from performing their regular duties.  The goals of the Program are to:

  • Fulfill our moral, ethical and legal responsibilities to our employees
  • Create positive workplace morale through communication and support for the injured worker
  • Minimize the potential for reinjury or permanent disability
  • Reduce medical and disability costs to ECU
  • And increase productivity by decreasing lost work time.


There are many variables that affect the outcome of workers' compensation claims such as the nature and extent of injury, the injured workers' attitude toward the employer and the disability, the employer's effectiveness in managing the claim and the employer's attitude toward the injured employee.  Although we cannot control how an injured employee may react, we can influence many aspects surrounding the injury by implementing an effective return to work program.  The following list describes employee and management benefits of a return to work program:

Employment Benefits

  • Job site rehabilitation speeds recovery
    • Wage continuation vs. 2/3 on workers' compensation
  • Less disruption to normal routine
  • Controlled environment prevents reinjury
  • Preserves leave time which may have ben used to supplement
  • WC Maintain social contact at work place
  • Support during recuperation period Service credits not lost
  • Positive influence on peers during recuperation
  • Cultivates endurance vs. Inactivity Eligible for Legislative increases if still working
  • Realizes value to the organization
  • Focuses on abilities instead of disability
  • Vocational rehabilitation during recovery expedites income replacement
  • Productive uses of abilities promotes self-esteem

Supervisor/Management Benefits

  • Prevents secondary disability
  • Saves money spent on hiring temporaries
  • Promotes positive employee morale in the work place
  • Utilize recovery period to maintain productivity
  • Preserves a skilled and stable worker for the agency
  • Illustrates value of employee to the work place
  • Promotes employee return to work force
  • Promotes cross-training
  • Minimizes potential for adversarial relationship
  • Lower medical costs
  • Decrease costs for lost work days
  • Maximizing productivity will promote positive feedback
  • Minimizes case management
  • Promotes communication vs. litigation
  • Maximizes communication with injured employee
  • Minimizes short- and long-term disability cases
  • Promotes compliance with ADA view addition to employee benefits package

NOTE: When an employee is injured and cannot return to work, they are paid 2/3 of their salary to recuperate at home.  Although that money generally does not come from the employee's department, it does come form the employee's division. This loss of funds means less ability to pay for division funded goods and services, like computers or staff. These funds are lost with no benefit to the organization.