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Suitable duties

What are suitable duties?

The ultimate goal of any rehabilitation and return to work plan is to successfully support the worker back to their pre-injury role.

Employers should encourage and allow their workers to return to the workplace in a reduced capacity while they recover from their injury. This ensures that the worker maintains their engagement with the workplace and their colleagues. It also helps maintain a sense of routine and purpose for the worker which is important while they recover.

Some injuries may mean that it is not safe or practical to have the worker complete tasks and duties that they would normally do. In these circumstances, the employer needs to identify a range of other tasks that the worker can perform. These are called ‘suitable duties’.

Suitable duties are tasks or responsibilities within the workplace that the worker can perform even though it may not be part of their normal job. The employer needs to take the worker’s skill and experience into consideration when finding them suitable duties. Although a worker may be injured, there is often many opportunities for the worker to positively contribute to the workplace in a different capacity.

Suitable duties are sometimes referred to as ‘alternative duties’. This is because they are considered alternative tasks and responsibilities that the worker can perform. In any case, suitable duties are an important part of supporting the worker to recover at work. Without the provision of suitable duties, a worker may be forced to take extended time away from the workplace which is bad for their health and recovery.

Benefits to the worker:

  • Maintenance of a routine
  • Ability to earn an income while they recover
  • Positively contribute to the workplace
  • Improve their confidence in performing duties
  • Develop or expand on a range of skills

Benefits to the employer:

  • Maintain skills and expertise within the workplace
  • Reduce the impact on the workers’ compensation premium
  • Have workers with expansive range of skills and abilities
  • Eliminates the resources required to train new staff

Suitable duties plan

The rehabilitation and return to work coordinator is responsible for the development of a suitable duties plan. A suitable duties plan is a personalised document for an individual worker.

The suitable duties plan provides a clear overview as to the tasks that will be performed by the worker as they recover over a specified period of time.

A suitable duties plan includes:

  • Worker’s details and contact information
  • The period for which the worker can perform suitable duties (this information is provided by a doctor on a work capacity certificate)
  • The duties to be performed in gradual/incremental stages
  • Any specifications or restrictions that need to be adhered to as identified by a medical practitioner – these can include physical and psychological considerations (e.g removal from stressor)
  • Any training required to allow the worker to perform the suitable duties
  • When the suitable duties plan is to be reviewed and updated
  • Signatures from relevant parties to approve the suitable duties plan including the worker, the worker’s supervisor, the rehabilitation and return to work coordinator and the worker’s treating practitioner.

When no suitable duties are available within the workplace

There may be occasions where an employer is unable to provide suitable duties to a worker within the workplace.

This does not mean that the worker should stay at home until they are fully recovered. The employer should contact WorkCover or the self-insurer to discuss finding another workplace where the worker can utilise their skills and abilities. This is called ‘host employment’.

A host employer is an employer who agrees to have a recovering worker at their workplace when the worker is unable to participate in rehabilitation with their normal employer.

WorkCover or the self-insured employer pays the worker’s wage when they perform suitable duties with a host employer. This type of program usually runs for approximately 3-6 weeks.

The host employer does not employ the worker once they have completed their suitable duties program. However, if the host employer wishes to employ the worker, the host employer may be exempt from any costs associated with a work-related aggravation of the original injury if this occurs in the future.

Benefits to a host employer:

  • An additional skilled worker whose wages are paid by the insurer
  • Increased productivity for the business
  • Employers can provide potential new workers during a trial period if they are looking to recruit additional workers

Find out more about becoming a host employer.

Last updated
14 June 2019

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