What Is a Return-To-Work Plan?

It is a detailed written document that outlines the expectations for an employee who is returning to work from an illness or disability-related absence.

The plan sets a clear expectation for what their responsibilities will be. Sometimes employers must make disability-related accommodations to make their return more successful. For example, assigning lighter duties or providing tools to ease their transition.


What Does The Law Say?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) states that all public sector organizations; private or non-profit organizations with 50+ employees, must develop and document a process for writing Return-to-Work plans.

Even if your company has fewer than fifty employees, we still recommend having a process in place that’s easy for your team to follow. It should have clear steps and state who on your team is responsible for implementing them.

We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when a company has no process in place. A lot of time, money, and stress can be saved by setting yourself up for success.


The Benefits of a Return-to-Work Plan

A return-to-work plan will make employees feel valued and listened to. It will demonstrate that you’re invested in their health and well-being and that you’re willing to do all you can to accommodate their needs. In this way, a return-to-work process can reduce staff turnover and help you to retain your most skilled and experienced workers.

If you help ease your employees back into their roles after a period of absence, you’ll likely see an increase in your overall productivity. Even if your returning employees cannot yet work at full capacity, they’ll be able to do more for your business than would’ve been possible if they were absent.


How can you Develop one that works for your Company?

Communication is key for any kind of relationship! Have a meeting with your employee and get on the same page. In most cases, your employee will let you know when they’re considering returning to work.

Ask your employee if they’ve had their doctor complete a Functional Abilities Form. This can be a great resource for creating a plan that properly suits the employee’s capabilities. If they don’t have a form completed, you can recommend it to facilitate a safe Return-to-Work.

Depending on their condition, they could be fully or partially recovered. The insights you learn from this initial meeting will help you plan with them accordingly. Clear documentation is key during this initial meeting.


Details For an Effective Return-to-Work Plan

Here are the details we’ve regularly seen included in a Return-to-Work Plan:

  • The worker’s name and title or department
  • The manager or supervisor’s name, and title or department
  • When the Return-to-Work process should start and end

A great plan could also list:

  • Any limitations the worker now experiences
  • All job functions involving those tasks
  • Any arrangements that will ensure the worker’s safety
  • Start and end dates if any of these arrangements are temporary
    • A date for a reassessment of the current plan
  • Accommodations that would allow the worker to perform each function, such as:
    • Modified schedule or location
    • Modified job requirements or tasks exchanged with colleagues
    • Any assistive device(s) the worker uses

After you’ve written the plan make sure you have the employee sign it in agreement for your records.



Based on what you’ve learned so far, we recommend starting to develop a process for your company to create and implement Return-to-Work plans. This process is something your company should improve over time as you get more experience.

If you have any questions, please contact us. We can help point you in the right direction.


Here are some additional resources to help you learn more: