This section has been reviewed and updated as needed: May 2014

Return to Work Program

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gives priority to permanent employees on Workers’ Compensation Leave to affect an early return to work. To facilitate an early return to work and to identify potential rehabilitation and/or training needs, EHS Workers’ Compensation Manager will request regular updates from the primary treating physician regarding the length of temporary disability, the potential for return to work with modified duties, and the prognosis for full recovery or any permanent disabilities that may impair work performance in the employee’s present position. In some cases, the services of Medical Case Managers and/or Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist will be obtained. UNC has three possible return to work situations:

Has Reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and Is Released to Return to Work

When the Employee has reached MMI and has been released to return to work by the primary treating physician, the Employee is return to the same position, status, and pay held prior to workers’ compensation leave.

Has Not Reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) but Is Released to Modified Duty

When the Employee has not reached MMI and has been released to return to modified work by the primary treating physician, the University strongly encourages Department to make modifications in job duties that are meaningful and productive to reasonably accommodate temporary physical limitations. In some cases, return to work may involve a temporary reassignment in a different position commensurate with the employee’s skills and abilities, or the former position with limited duties, or the former position on a part-time (less than 40 hours a week) basis.

The UEOHC will contact the Supervisor and/or Department Head and explain the primary treating physician’s restrictions requirements and provide a copy of those restrictions prior to reinstatement to work status. The Department will make reasonable accommodations which will continue until the employee has reached MMI. During the interim, the UEOHC and EHS Workers’ Compensation Manager will monitor the employee’s medical progress and have continue communications with the Supervisor and/or Department Head regarding the employee’s restrictions.

Has Reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) but Has a Permanent Disability

As the employee reaches maximum medical improvement and the primary treating physician concludes the permanent employee will have a permanent disability, the Department of Environment Health and Safety will evaluate the following option:

Able to Return to Current Position

EHS will consult with Department to see if the employee is:

  • Capable of performing all current duties and/or
  • Capable of performing some of the essential duties in which reasonable accommodations are provided under the Americans with Disability Act

EHS will provide the primary treating physician with a copy of the employee’s position description to review that permanent restrictions are met. The primary treating physician will provide UNC with a written statement approving the position.

Unable to Return to Current Position

EHS will consult with the Department on the availability of re-assignment to another position within the department. When a position is identified, the Department will provide EHS with the job description. The job description will be given to the primary treating physician to review that permanent restrictions are met. The primary treating physician will provide UNC with a written statement approving the position.

If no positions are available in the employee’s current Department, EHS will establish a meeting with the Department Representative, Office of Human Resources, and the employee’s Medical Case Manager/Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist to discuss employment options. Office of Human Resources will evaluate and confirm that the employee’s current department has no position available. After confirmation, Office of Human Resources will search all available position at UNC that commensurate the employee’s skills and abilities and appoint employee to the first suitable vacancy that occurs. The re-employment placement will strongly attempt to maintain the employee’s annual salary rate. When positions are identified, Office of Human Resources will obtain the job description and send to EHS. EHS will forward the job description to the primary treating physician to review that permanent restrictions are met. The primary treating physician will provide UNC with a written statement approving the position. When the determination is made to re-employ the permanent employee in a different department, the Office of Human Resources arranges such placement in consultation with the department heads involved and, as appropriate, other principal administrative officers. EHS will provide Vocational Rehabilitation job coaching and/or training through workers’ compensation for the employee and/or Department in which the employee is being placed for the first several days.

No-Employment Opportunities

If no re-employment opportunities exist at UNC-CH, the Office of Human Resources will refer the Case Manager/Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist and employee to the Office of State Personnel for assistance towards available work in another State agency.

Refusal of Re-employment

If an employee, who has been on workers’ compensation leave, has reached maximum medical improvement and released to return to work by the primary treating physician refuses suitable employment in keeping with the employees’ capacity, the University shall request stop payment of compensation and implement dismissal procedures.

Employee’s Current Leave Status While Return to Work Options Are Reviewed

If the employee is currently back at work on modified duty, then the employee will continue in current status until placement is made. Re-employment activities will continue for twelve months from the date the physician release the employee from further treatment.

If the employee is NOT currently back at work, the employee will stay in the position Leave Without Pay, Workers’ Compensation status, and continues to earn Vacation and Sick Leave and Total State Service Membership. However, the department will be allowed to recruit for the position on a permanent time-limited basis.

Note: The incoming employee must be informed that this is a time-limited appointment until the employee in Workers’ Compensation pay status changes from Leave Without Pay status.

Re-employment activities continue for twelve months from the date the physician releases the employee from further treatment.