Background Hand injuries (HI) are common and may limit participation in work. The objective of this study is to examine the effect of ethnicity and other prognostic variables on return-to-work (RTW) among male manual workers after acute HI. Methods A cohort of 178 subjects (90 Arabs, 88 Jews) aged 22 to 65 was studied. Trained bilingual occupational therapists evaluated and interviewed the subjects, using structured validated questionnaires for evaluating personal and environmental factors, body function and structure, and activity limitation and participation restrictions. Employment status 3 months post injury was assessed by a telephone interview. To establish a predictive model for RTW, ethnicity and certain variables of the four domains mentioned above were analyzed using logistic regression analysis. Results A significant difference in the rate of RTW between Jews and Arabs was found (45.5% for Jews, 28.9% for Arabs, p = 0.03) three months post HI. In the univariate regression analysis, ethnicity was associated with RTW (OR = 2.05; CI: 1.10–3.81) for Jews vs. Arabs. Using a multivariate analysis, only legal counseling, educational attainment, and the severity of disability were significantly associated with RTW. Conclusion RTW three months post HI among manual workers is directly related to variables such as education and legal counseling and only indirectly related to ethnicity. Patients with a lower level of education and those who were engaged in legal counseling need special attention and close guidance in the process of RTW.