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Benefits of early return to work

When a worker is injured at work, it doesn’t always mean they need time off work.

Getting back to work is an important step in recovering from a work-related injury and means a worker can return to a normal life, often reducing the financial and emotional impact on them and their family.

Returning to work may mean a worker has gone back to their old job or another job, and could involve working reduced hours or suitable duties.

Research indicates that early return to good work has important health and wellbeing benefits, and can help in recovery from injury and illness. Long term work absence, work disability and unemployment generally have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

What is good work?

Research indicates good work is about balancing the interests of individuals, employers and society in order to ensure performance, engagement and fairness.

Simply put, good work is work that is free of negative health effects and offers health improvement opportunities to the worker.

There are four domains to good work:

  • Engages workers – by engaging with workers, employers can create a culture of workplace participation.
  • Engages with community – good work goes beyond the individual worker to those benefiting from the worker’s activities, whether this be customers or their family and social networks. Good work also engages with the community in which it operates to encompass the concept of community or social responsibility.
  • Fairness and transparency– good work exists in an environment that respects procedural justice and fairness, critically dealing with incivility, discrimination and bullying.
  • Work design – good work appropriately balances the design of the job demands, job controls and workplace supports. To achieve the benefits associated with good work, there must be a reasonable match between the individual and the job.

Not all four domains need to be present for work to be considered ‘good’, as not all domains apply equally to industries. Research indicates for industries identifying opportunities to improve ‘good work’, one or two domains appear to predominate.

Some of the benefits of good work for workers include:

  • improves general health and wellbeing
  • reduces psychological distress
  • Improves return to work outcomes and reduces the impact of an injury on their health and wellbeing.

Some of the benefits of good work for employers include:

  • improves staff morale
  • increases workforce participation and productivity
  • decreases absenteeism and early retirement
  • improves return to work outcomes and reduces potential of workers’ compensation premium increases.
Last updated
14 June 2019

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