Purpose Occupational injury and work-related disability is a significant public health problem. For published research to provide a collective knowledge base for return to work (RTW) policy and practice, features of the compensation system relevant to the research must be described clearly. The level of the reporting on compensation system features is yet to be established. The aim of the present study was to synthesize the evidence for the reporting on compensation systems in prognostic studies of RTW following work-related injuries. Methods A systematic review of the literature was conducted. Ovid Medline and EMBASE were searched for studies published 1996-2011. Included studies were prognostic studies of RTW or work disability following work-related acute traumatic injuries. Results The initial search yielded 952 articles; 37 articles fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies were based on clinical practice; eight studies were based on administrative data. Only two studies reported seven or more compensation features and two studies reported four to six. The majority of studies (19/37) did not report on any aspect of the compensation system that study participants were interacting with. The most common information reported was the extent of coverage at the population level (7/37) and the availability of wage replacement entitlements (7/37). The name of the compensation system was provided in 5 studies. Conclusions Overall reporting on compensation systems in prognostic studies of RTW needs to be improved if research evidence is to inform policy and practice. Compensation system features that could be reported are provided.