Return to Work Program

Handbook of Operating Procedures 5-2240

Return to Work Program

The University of Texas at Austin
Executive Sponsor: Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
October 8, 2003



  1. Policy Statement

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin, when possible, to modify work assignments for a limited period to assist employees who are temporarily restricted from performing their regularly assigned duties due to an on-the-job injury.

(Note: This policy should not be construed as recognition that an employee has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Information concerning that policy may be found at


  1. Scope

This policy applies to all University of Texas at Austin employees.


  1. Definitions

A Return to Work (RTW) (Modified Duty) position is a temporary position to which an employee is assigned when he/she is unable to return to his/her regular position following an on-the-job injury or illness. The Return to Work position temporarily addresses the restrictions placed on an individual by the employee’s treating doctor.


Employment related injury is an injury or occupational disease, which arises out of the course and scope of employment and is a compensable injury or illness, as defined under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (TWCA).


Physician in this policy means a doctor of medicine, osteopathic medicine, optometry, dentistry, podiatry, or chiropractic who is licensed and authorized to practice as defined in the Texas Workers’ Compensation Rules (Texas Labor Code, Title 5, Subtitle A).


  1. Eligibility

To be eligible for participation in the RTW Program, an employee must provide a written statement (TWCC-73) from his/her treating physician that he/she is:

  • Temporarily unable to perform his/her essential duties, following an employment related injury or illness.


  • Capable of carrying out work of a lighter or modified nature from his/her regular duties and is expected to return to his/her regular duties within 90 calendar days.

If a staff member is involved in Performance Counseling, then he/she cannot be placed in a RTW position outside of his/her regular department.


  1. Process
  1. Once notified of an on-the-job injury or illness, the department must complete a First Report of Injury (TWCC-1) for Workers’ Compensation (see Supervisor’s Guide to Workers’ Compensation Insurance, Section II) and inform the employee in writing of the Return to Work Program.
  1. The employee must be seen and evaluated by his/her physician to determine if the employee is able to return to work, and if so, with or without restrictions.

At the time of the evaluation, the employee must inform the physician of the Return to Work Program, and provide him/her with a copy of the employee’s regular job description that identifies the essential functions of the job and its requirements.


  1. When the employee is able to return to work with restrictions, the employee’s physician must complete the TWCC 73 Work Status Report, indicating the specific restrictions, and the duration of those restrictions. Clarification regarding temporary restrictions may be requested of the treating physician.
  1. Taking into consideration the information provided by the physician, the employee’s department, in consultation with Human Resources, will determine if a temporary Modified Duty assignment can be offered. It should be understood that there may be instances in which the University will not be able to offer a Modified Duty assignment.

If the employee’s regular department is unable to meet the employees need for Modified Duty, the employee's department is responsible for payment of the employee’s salary and benefits while performing a Modified Duty position in a different department which has been able to meet the employees’ need for Modified Duty.


  1. Compensation

In most cases, there will not be an adjustment in the compensation of the employee that is placed in a Modified Duty position. However, the employee placed in a Modified Duty position will be paid a salary that is equivalent to the salary of other employees holding the same position.


The salary and benefits of the employee will remain the responsibility of the original employing department, including during any period of temporary placement external to the department.


  1. Offer of Modified Duties Position

Once the employee has been approved to participate in the Return to Work Program, the department must provide a Return to Work (Modified Duty) job offer letter. This letter shall include:


  1. The position offered.
  1. The location and duties of the position offered.
  1. The wages and schedule of the position offered.
  1. The duration of the temporary work assignment.
  1. A statement that the department will only assign a position/duties consistent with the employee’s knowledge and skills, and will provide training if necessary.
  1. A statement acknowledging that the employer is knowledgeable about and will abide by the limitations under which the treating physician has authorized the return to work.
  1. Refusal of Modified Duties Offer

An employee may choose to accept or refuse the Return to Work (Modified Duty) job offer. However, an employee who refuses a Modified Duty job offer is subject to termination. Rejection of the job offer might also result in cancelation of income benefits under Workers’ Compensation Insurance.


  1. Duration of Modified Duty

A Return to Work with Modified Duty offer will be extended for an initial period not to exceed 90 calendar days. The duration of approved time will be based upon the information provided by the employee's physician. If the employee is unable to return to work at full duty after the initial approved time, he/she may request a continuation of Modified Duty not to exceed a total of 90 calendar days in a Modified Duty capacity.


An employee requesting an extension of Modified Duty, beyond the originally approved amount of time in the Return to Work with Modified Duty offer letter, must submit documentation to the department from his/her treating physician. This document should include what limitations continue to exist and the probable duration of those limitations.


If an employee is unable to return to work at full duty after 90 calendar days, he/she may request a continuation of Modified Duty not to exceed a total of 180 calendar days in a modified capacity. Approval beyond 90 calendar days will be based upon the assessment of the employee's ability to return to full duty within the immediate future. An employee requesting an extension beyond 90 calendar days must submit updated information from his/her treating physician.


  1. End of Modified Duty

An employee who is unable to return to his/her regularly assigned duties at the end of the Modified Duty agreement may request a leave of absence through his/her department or may elect to terminate his/her employment with the University.


Provided the employee has exhausted any entitlement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA - See HOP 5-4310), the department has the option to approve or deny the leave of absence request. If Leave Without Pay is denied, employment with the University will be terminated.


If the employee believes that the condition is permanent, progressive, or chronic, the employee may pursue the University’s Americans with Disabilities Act Accommodation Policy (See HOP 3-3010 to determine if they are a qualified individual with a disability. Information concerning the ADA can be found at


For Assistance: Human Resources is responsible for administering the Return to Work Program in consultation with the employee’s department. Questions regarding the Return to Work Program should be directed to Human Resources, Benefits Services Section, website


Source: Texas Workers' Compensation Act; Americans with Disabilities Act; New UT Austin Policy


Previously HOP 7.E.3