Temporary Modifications to Work

Recovering from a serious illness or injury can be challenging. It is widely recognized that appropriate activity during recovery positively contributes to a person’s overall health and speed of recovery. The Canadian Medical Association has noted:

The CMA recognizes the importance of a patient returning to all possible functional activities relevant to his or her life as soon as possible after an injury or illness. Prolonged absence from one's normal roles, including absence from the workplace, is detrimental to a person's mental, physical and social well-being. The treating physician should therefore encourage a patient's return to function and work as soon as possible after an illness or injury, provided that a return to work does not endanger the patient, his or her co-workers or society. A safe and timely return to work benefits the patient/employee and his or her family by enhancing recovery and reducing disability. A safe and timely return to work by the employee also preserves a skilled and stable workforce for employers and society and reduces demands on health and social services as well as on disability plans. (Canadian Medical Association, 2013)


The University of Alberta understands the rehabilitative benefits of providing temporary modified hours and/or duties to assist a staff member in their transition to regular hours/duties.

  1. Temporary modifications to work are applicable when the prognosis for a full recovery is positive. Modifications may include:
  • adjustment to duties and/or hours of work, or
  • a temporary placement in rehabilitative employment with the goal of returning to regular duties and hours. 
  1. Documentation of temporary modifications is important. If temporary modifications change the terms/conditions of employment (e.g. hours and duties), a Human Resource Partner should be consulted and the staff association/union is to be made aware of the temporary change. An Organizational Health and Effectiveness (OHE) Return to Work Consultant (RTWC) is also available for advice and assistance.
  2. If a staff member has remained at work while managing a temporary restriction, the staff member and his/her Supervisor may implement temporary modifications and document the details and duration. For example, if a staff member sprains an ankle while hiking, the temporary restriction may be to avoid prolonged standing and stair climbing for 2 weeks. 
  3. If the situation is more complex or if there is an associated absence from work (10 days or more – see Academic or Support Staff Leave) which has resulted in recommendations for a gradual return to work (duties and/or hours), then a RTWC will be assigned to work with the supervisor and staff member to develop, implement and monitor a return to work plan. The supervisor will need to submit an On Line Notification form to initiate the referral.
Note: If the prognosis, over time, becomes poor and/or timelines for recovery are extended, the temporary modifications process may transition to a longer term formal Accommodation Due to Physical or Mental Disability. Please see the Medical Accommodation Due to Physical or Mental Disability webpage for permanent medical restrictions/limitations.