What is early intervention?
Experiencing an injury can be a difficult and challenging experience for a worker. Being injured limits a worker’s ability to perform normal day-to-day tasks and can interfere with their ability to earn an income.
Early intervention means starting to plan the worker’s return to work as early as possible once a worker has experienced an injury. Commencing return to work planning and offering support immediately to a worker drastically improves their ability to recover quickly and return to their job safely.
Support to the worker should be offered as soon as possible. It should not be delayed until the outcome of a claim application is finalised.
Unless an employer is a self-insurer, the employer can not pay a worker an amount, either in compensation or instead of compensation that is payable by WorkCover under the Act.
However if an employer does pay an amount in respect of a worker’s injury while WorkCover is deciding the claim (e.g. pays for a doctor’s visit), the employer must give WorkCover written notice within 8 business days of payment being made.
Making early contact with a worker
Contacting a worker as soon as possible once they have experienced an injury is one of the best early intervention methods.
Workers can often be contacted through a range of methods including phone, email, posted correspondence or a personal visit from someone from their workplace.
Personalised communication methods such as in-person discussions or phoning the worker are the most beneficial. These approaches are preferred as they provide the opportunity for each party to engage in two-way conversation. The worker is also provided with the opportunity to ask questions early if they are unsure as to the process that will take place.
The language and genuine intent of these communications is an important predictor of how successful the worker’s return to work will be. If done poorly, it may create unnecessary challenges and disengage the worker from the process of returning them to work safely.
There are multiple strategies to use during the first few initial contacts with a worker:
Show empathy and a genuine concern for the worker’s health and wellbeing
“I am sorry that this has happened to you, how are you going?”
“I can’t imagine how you must feel. I want to ensure that nothing else bad happens to you from this point on”
“The worst is over. I am here to make sure you receive the support you need to overcome this and get back to normal”
“I don’t want you feeling any worse so I will help you in any way I can”
“I know things might be hard for you now so I’m here to work with you and guide you through the process”
Understand the impact of the injury from the worker’s perspective (physically, psychologically and socially)
“Tell me what’s going on with the injury so I can understand what support to put in place for you”
“Are you able to do what you need to do at home?”
“Can you still participate in social activities outside of work?”
“Do you have assistance from family or friends to give you a hand if you need?”
“What worries you the most about your injury?”
“Do you have any concerns about your job while you recover?”
Gauge the worker’s emotional reaction to the injury
“How are you coping with the injury?”
“How are you feeling about your recovery?”
“Is the injury affecting your mood?”
“Do you feel like yourself and in control?”
“Is anything worrying you that you want to let me know about?”
“How are you finding the process?”
Provide confidence as to who is available to support the worker
“I want you to have my number and email and you’re welcome to contact me at any time. If I’m unavailable I will get in touch with you as soon as I can”
“My priority is to get you back to work as quickly and safely as possible”
“If I’m not available when you need, you are welcome to contact [name] to assist and they’ll touch base with me about what you need”
“I can assure you that our discussions are confidential”
“I’ll touch base with you again on [timeframe]”
“Let me know your preference for being contacted and I’ll work around that as best as I can”
“Let me know how I can keep you updated with what's happening at work so you’re on top of it for when you return”
Promote a focus on progression
“So what do you think you could do next?”
“Going forward, the next step will be [x]”
“So far we have completed [x], the next part of the process involves [x]. Are you comfortable with that?”
“Has anything in the process confused you?”
“Do you need me to clarify what's going to happen now?”
“The next goal for you is to [x]”
“What’s the next thing to you want to achieve?”
Providing relevant information to the worker early
Seeking appropriate and immediate medical attention for any injury must always be the first priority. Once a worker has sought suitable medical treatment, it may be appropriate to provide written information to the worker.
Preparing a pack of important information relating to return to work is often useful for a worker. An information pack helps reduce any confusion about the return to work process and clarifies a worker’s rights and responsibilities during the initial stages of the process.
Information to consider including in the return to work pack includes:
- Introduction of the person at the workplace who is managing the worker’s return to work, including their contact details and where they are located
- Overview of roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder involved in the process
- A summary of the workplace’s injury management system
- Communication expectations
- Summary of the step-by-step process
- Access to benefits – any appropriate forms or procedures for accessing leave entitlements
- Last updated
- 14 June 2019