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There may come a time when you have to take a leave of absence from the organization your work in. In this case, you would have to submit a return to work form upon your return. Managers should acknowledge his employee’s period of absence then discuss it after they return to work. In most cases, you would only have a light conversation with your manager, but there are times when you have to submit a return to work letter.

What is a back to work form?

Before you return to work after taking personal or medical leave, you may have to submit a back to work form. In some cases, you may even submit a doctor release form which is a written authorization given by your healthcare provider. Most companies would require their employees to present a return to work form before they can come back to work.

Return to work form contains information regarding the ability of the employee to return to his work and fulfill all of his responsibilities. It may also list any considerations and restrictions on his normal duties. If an employee comes back without this document and other documentation your office requires, you must send him home until he completes all of the requirements.

As soon as the employee returns to work, he should contact the HR department to confirm his attendance. Then he should email a copy of his return to work letter template to his superiors on the same day. In cases where an employee takes an extended leave, he might even have to submit additional documentation for the reinstating of his benefits.

If the reason for the employee’s leave has a medical nature, then he may also need a work release form from his healthcare provider. This would state that he is already fit to work. It may also have a request for a special work schedule, especially if the employee is still in the recovery period.

Downloadable Templates:

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Can an employer require a doctor’s note to return to work?

This would depend on the situation which prompted the request. It would also depend on the policies of the company. If there is a policy which states that the employee must submit a doctor’s note or a doctor release form, then he has no choice but to comply. Let’s take a look at the different types of leaves and whether or not you have to submit a doctor’s note for them:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA
    This type of situation allows employers to request for a doctor’s note from their employees. The ADA permits employers to ask for relevant information from the employee’s doctor or healthcare provider for the purpose of learning more about the disability. With this information, the employer can determine whether he has to increase the ADA disability level when the impairment isn’t apparent.
    Also, the employer can use the information given by the doctor to learn more about any accommodation possibilities and functional limitations of the employee. However, the employer must only limit his inquiries to the employee’s condition which needs accommodation.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA
    In this case, the employers have every right to request for the doctor’s note. The employer can require their employees to acquire a certification from their healthcare provider to support the need for an FMLA leave. A consequent request for this note is already considered as a recertification request.
    Employers are only allowed to make this request every 6 months or under specific circumstances. Furthermore, if an employee returns to work after an FMLA leave, the employer may also ask for a fitness-for-duty document to verify that the employee is, indeed, fit to go back to work.
  • Sick leave
    Generally, employers may ask for a doctor’s note along with the return to work form if it’s a part of their attendance policy. However, they should apply this practice consistently meaning to all of their employees. The doctor’s note doesn’t have to include the employee’s diagnosis or medical condition.
    The more important information is the verification that a professional healthcare provider such as a doctor treated the employee. It should also contain any period of restrictions or incapacity related to the employee’s work.
    If an employer requests for more information than this, especially if the employee isn’t comfortable sharing such information, the employer might be in violation of certain laws. Because of this, it’s important for both employers and employees to familiarize themselves with the laws and restrictions regarding sick leaves.
  • Worker’s compensation
    This is another situation when employers can ask for a doctor’s note. Generally, it’s permissible for an employer to ask for this document following an illness or injury that’s work-related.

If one of the employees returns to work from a health-related issue and there’s reasonable belief that he presents a threat to the safety and health of the other employees, the employer must seek legal counsel on how to proceed with the issue. Apart from asking for the return to work letter, the employer should also request for a work release form from the doctor which states that the employee doesn’t present any threat by returning to work.

The document should verify that the employee isn’t contagious. It should also identify any modifications in the workplace required to ensure the safety, health, and protection of all the other employees at work. However, the employer should never go as far as asking medical information about the employee which isn’t relevant to his employment.

How much notice do you have to give to return to work after maternity leave?

When you return to work after standard maternity leave, you should get back to your same job and follow the same conditions and terms as you did before you left. The same principle applies when you come back after your additional maternity leave. But there are some cases when an employer decides that it’s not practical or reasonable for you to go back to the job you held originally.

One example is if the job or the position doesn’t exist anymore. In such a case, your employer should offer you a different type of work or a different position but with the same conditions and terms as your original work.

Normally, employers assume that women take 52 weeks of their statutory maternity leave. If you plan to take the entire 52 weeks, there’s no need for you to give notice of when you’re returning to work.

Still, it would be very helpful to inform your employer of your plan. But if you plan to return to work earlier, you should at least provide 8 weeks’ notice. If not, your employer has the right to insist that you wait for 8 more weeks before you can return to work. In your return to work letter template, state that you:

  • want to return to work earlier than expected
  • want to modify your return date

But if you decide that you won’t return to work permanently, give your notice to your employer in the normal way.

Can an employee return to work with restrictions?

If an employee sustains an injury while at work, the employer may want the injury to heal completely before he can return to his normal duties and responsibilities. He shouldn’t require any restrictions unless he has fully recovered. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous practice, and it might even lead to a violation of the ADA.

Employees considered disabled must receive reasonable accommodations or restrictions in their workplace under the ADA. If an employer sets a policy which requires the employees to get fully healed first before they can go back to work, he may receive a complaint about discrimination.

This is especially true if the employee can still perform his duties well as long as he receives the proper accommodations. To avoid any problems, here are some tips employers must keep in mind:

  • Inform the employee’s healthcare provider of his basic job duties
    Most of the time, healthcare providers and physicians aren’t aware of the job duties and workplace conditions of their patients. Therefore, it’s the employer’s job to inform them about the basic job duties and the working environment of the employee. This would allow the healthcare provider to provide the employer with adequate information regarding any work restrictions or limitations for the employee.
  • Consider giving the employee lighter tasks or alternative duties
    If an employee returns to work with restrictions, you may want to consider assigning him with lighter tasks or alternative duties at least of the time being. After the employee has healed completely, he can go back to performing his basic duties.
  • Provide your employee with proper workplace accommodations
    If an employee presents a return to work form along with a doctor release form but with restrictions, you have to follow them as an employer. This is especially true if the restrictions are because of a temporary disability. If needed, speak to the employee’s physician as to what type of accommodations your employee might require.


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