A recent study in Canada looked at this question as part of their ongoing research. They found more people went back to work after disc removal if they were still at work before the surgery. They may have taken some time off for recovery, but all but one was able to return to work after the operation.
This study also showed patients who had the operation sooner than later had a better result. Physical function was worse in patients who waited more than 12 months to have the operation. This was compared with patients who had the surgery within the first three months of symptom onset.
One other factor in the return to work equation is complications. Poor health, continued back and leg pain, infection, or poor wound healing can keep a patient from getting back to work. In some cases, the job is too hard and retraining is needed.