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Rehabilitation and return to work plan

A rehabilitation and return to work plan is a written document that outlines the rehabilitation objectives for a worker. It also includes all the steps required to achieve the objectives. A rehabilitation and return to work plan is different to a suitable duties plan.

The insurer is responsible for coordinating the development and ongoing maintenance of a rehabilitation and return to work plan for a worker, whereas an employer is responsible for developing a suitable duties plan.

A rehabilitation and return to work plan should be developed in consultation with the worker, their employer and treating practitioner/s. Research shows that rehabilitation and return to work plans are most successful when the worker has input into the plan as early as possible.

A rehabilitation and return to work plan should include:

  • personal details of the worker
  • the support person for the worker
  • the workplace rehabilitation and return to work coordinator
  • start and finish date of the suitable duties program
  • the worker’s return to work goals
  • the medical treatment to be provided to the worker
  • the ‘stages’ of return to work as recommended by the worker’s treating practitioner/s
  • the worker’s physical and psychological capacity to perform tasks/duties
  • specific work tasks/duties to be avoided
  • the workplace accommodations required to support the worker
  • when the plan will be reviewed and by who; and
  • a space for the worker, treating doctor, rehabilitation and return to work coordinator and supervisor to sign and date the plan.

What is a person-centred approach?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting a worker who has experienced an injury. Injuries often affect people in different ways, even when the nature of the injury might be similar.

Injury management and return to work is most effective when the treatment and support provided to a worker is tailored to address their individual needs.

The best way to understand the worker’s individual needs is to ensure that they are the central focus of the process. The worker needs to have an active (not passive) role in their personal return to work planning. The employer should actively seek input from the worker to ensure they are regularly involved in the process.

The interventions put in place to help the worker should be in response to their own identified needs where at all possible.

Strategies for applying a person-centred approach to return to work

The main objective of this approach is to personalise the return to work process and interventions delivered to reflect the individual needs of a person. All aspects of the return to work are focused on the person.

Simple strategies to provide a person-centred approach through an injury management program include:

  • Develop an injury management program that recognises that the process is flexible to respond to the individual needs of a worker
  • Include the worker in the planning
  • Empower the worker to participate in return to work planning as they are the expert in identifying what impact the injury has had on them and what support they need
  • Personalise all templates and correspondence so documentation reflects the individual, i.e. John Smith’s Return to Work Program
  • Share information during each step in the process to allow the worker to make informed decisions and contribute to their return to work planning
  • Be open to considering new interventions, for example, provide opportunity for the worker to propose their own solutions
  • Provide adequate explanations and reasoning if a suggested solution cannot be implemented and collaborate with the worker to find an alternative option
  • Provide regular opportunity for the worker to identify and communicate their personal return to work goals and work in partnership to achieve these
Last updated
14 June 2019

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