Return to Work Program

How It Prevents Skilled Workers from Exiting the Job Market


Prolonged leaves of absence due to workplace injuries, illnesses, and accidents are costly not only to employers, but also to employees, and any additional compensation partners. 

Generally speaking, employees want to maintain employment security by returning to work after an injury/ illness as quickly as possible. They tend to respond well when employers offer them an opportunity to resume job responsibilities through a return to work program: 80-90% of injured employees would rather return to work than collect disability according to CatalystRTW. Even for an employee who faces a permanent disability, a return-to-work-program reduces the average number of weeks out of work by 12.6 weeks, as reported by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice.

With any return to work plan the employee’s needs should be discussed with the supervisor, team leader, return to work coordinator, and if relevant the employee’s health practitioner. A return to work interview can provide the framework for a productive dialogue: a plan can be drafted that will set up the requirements and expectations from both sides on reboarding the employee

An employee onboarding software, such as introdus, can provide an effective way of managing the various elements of a return to work plan (even in cases of phased return to work):  actions and milestones, findings from feedback and evaluation sessions, assessing the progress of the employee and supplementary adaptations to the original plan. 

This article will discuss how an early and safe return to work program can be a central instrument for keeping employees in the labor market, or attracting those temporarily out of the market. Moreover, it will include a list of guidelines for employees preparing their return to work. 

Advantages of a Return to Work Program


Benefits for All Parties Involved

A RTW program establishes the roles of each participant, thus creating a well-documented and transparent process. 

In order for a return to work program to be successful, it is crucial for it to be based on the idea of partnership between all the parties involved and a shared commitment to the goal of returning injured or ill workers to employment. 

A formalised return to work program presents multiple benefits for all of the parties involved, as follows:


Injured/ sick employees

  • Maintain their employment security, seniority and benefits, which provides job security and financial independence and alleviates the feelings of dependency and lack of control,
  • Receive personalized and effective treatment adapted to their circumstances,
  • Maintaining dignity and self worth by remaining productive and maintaining necessary job skills by focusing on their abilities and not their disabilities,
  • Maintain social contact and support from co-workers,
  • Receive additional financial relief if the employer chooses to enact a return to work supplement program, thus providing an additional financial disbursement,
  • In case of a women’s return to work  programme, it can help preserve new mothers 
in the labor force, as stay-at-home moms are often an untapped resource with valuable and relevant skills.



  • Reduce staff turnover and training costs by retaining experienced and knowledgeable workers,
  • Improve the morale and employee relations by offering return to work plans for both work-related and non-work-
related injury or illness, 
  • Promote a culture of support and choice in the workplace – a culture that makes returning workers feel valued, worthy and not necessarily blamed for absence; this will improve work attitudes and create a good public image for the company,
  • Minimize non-recoverable expenses (employee benefits, the hiring and training of replacement workers), 
the cost of inexperienced workers, and 
reduce accident and workplace costs,
  • Decreased the number of grievances and arbitrations.



  • Improve productivity because skilled and productive workers are kept on the job rather than burdening existing employees with an additional workload until replacement arrangements are in place. 
  • Completion of meaningful alternative duties that may not have otherwise been accomplished due to other priorities.
  • Where relevant, healthcare providers are included and supported in their decisions and treatment strategies. Rehabilitation and occupational health professionals can be a key for the success of a RTW program, because they are a bridge between the workplace and the healthcare system.
  • Unions maintain the employment rights of their members.
  • The workers’compensation system can manage rising health costs by ensuring that sick or injured employees regain productivity as soon as physically possible, while continuing to provide benefits to injured workers and their dependents.  
Return to Work Program: How It Prevents Skilled Workers from Exiting the Job Market

Ready for a Back to Work Program


Checklist for Employees

If you are thinking about returning to work, and are confused or overwhelmed about what is expected from you next, we have compiled a checklist of things to consider, so as to be ready for your return to work meeting:

  • Reach out to your healthcare provider and seek their clearance and further recommendations.
  • Check your team’s and company’s communication channels so as to be fully updated with the latest happening and updates and regain work engagement.
  • Do a self-awareness exercise and jot down the details of your current condition and how it could impact your work. Think especially about any challenges preventing you from successfully performing work duties. 
  • Once you are updated with the progress that the team has achieved in your absence, consider whether any new opportunities could be present for you.
  • Focus on realizing whether you have reconsidered at all your career path and priorities.
  • When it comes to workload, will you be able to fully resume work as it was prior to the absence (in terms of both schedule and responsibilities)?
  • Consider whether you will require a phased return to work strategy to facilitate your transition.
  • Consider drafting a return to work letter to your line manager and/or return to work coordinator formally informing them of your intentions to resume work.


Download a Return to Work Letter Template

Return to Work Program

Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Apple, Ford, Johnson & Johnson have started launching returnship programmes from 2008. 

Bringing Back Mature Workers to the Job Market: The Returnship Program


A returnship program is a grown-up version of the normal entry-level internship, as it is addressed to experienced workers who have been temporarily out of the labor market. It can be seen as a form of a back-to-work program, as its goal is to bring back skilled workers into the workforce and aid them in the process, so that they would not have to restart at the bottom of a career ladder.

For companies, a returnship program allows accessing a large pool of candidates with diverse and sometimes non-traditional career paths. Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Apple, Ford, Johnson & Johnson have started launching returnship programmes from 2008. 

Most recently, financial advisory firms have started getting a high interest in creating a returnship program, as a strategy to bring in more women into the sector. The Fidelity Return to work program is exemplary for this: targeting professionals who have taken an extended career break of 18 months or more. It offers a professional mentor and buddy to support your return to work, professional development and will help you develop your internal professional network.

Deutsche Bank’s return to work program emphasises the role of training for enabling workers’ return to work – they offer a specific and tailored, self-directed return to work curriculum, as well as business updates and access to internal support networks. 

Return to Work Program

Having a return to work program in place reduces the length of an injured employee’s absence by an average of 3.6 weeks. 

Return to Work Program: Google, Amazon, Microsoft


The current global situation illustrates how return to work programmes can provide a backbone for organizing returns to office after long periods of remote work, and opportunities for reboarding employees. This is a challenging process, as a country’s public health status (with a focus on the spreading of infectious diseases) is a determining and ever-changing (risk) factor.

Big tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft are choosing to postpone enforcing stringent return to office deadlines, despite their readily-available financial and technological resources. 

Google cites flexibility and choice at the core of their return to work strategy and continues to enforce a voluntary work-from-home based on local conditions.

Amazon decided to reverse a “office-centric policy” for its corporate workers. Initially Amazon’s plan was to require workers to be three days per week at the office, but now they are leaving the decision up to individual teams: “At a company of our size, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best,” said Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in a message to Amazon employees. 

Microsoft decided to indefinitely delay setting a return to work at the office deadline, as the global situation is too unstable and unpredictable. Once returning to the office will be feasible from a local public health perspective, Microsoft will enforce a month-long transition period to aid employees get ready. 

For those companies that choose (or necessitate) to get employees return to work at the office, a Pre & Onboarding platform such as introdus, provides an easily integrated solution. Due to its being a specialised and easy tool for content preparation and distribution (timelines, schedules, checklists etc), you can be safely and easily reboarded and re-familiarized with working at the office.

When confronted with periods of leave of absence, employees respond well to RTW programmes as they want to maintain employment security and return to work after an injury/ illness as quickly as possible. Having a return to work program in place reduces the length of an injured employee’s absence by an average of 3.6 weeks, as per data published by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice.

With the right policy frameworks, the commitment of the leadership and good collaboration practices, employees can be welcomed back to the workplace, their skills fostered and their well-being preserved and/or improved.

Step into a successful returning to work with the proper online platform.


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