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Common Law Rehabilitation and Return to Work Policy

Health benefits of work

Research confirms work is good for health and wellbeing, while loss of work, whether because of impaired health, or for other reasons, is generally harmful. The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians are leading the way in this enterprise with their mission statement ‘Realising the Health Benefits of Work’.

Research into the health benefits of work highlights that being off work for long periods of time can significantly reduce the likelihood of a worker returning to work, and can have a negative effect on the worker and their family. Work plays an important role in any rehabilitation process because 'doing' promotes recovery.


WorkCover Queensland has an obligation under sections 267, 268 and 269 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act), to provide treatment and rehabilitation for return to work. In addition to this, WorkCover has an obligation under section 220 of the Act, to refer a worker who has lodged a notice of claim to an accredited return to work program. Section 220 of the Act states:

… an insurer must refer a worker who has lodged a notice of claim to an accredited return to work program of the insurer, unless the insurer is satisfied that, as a result of the injury, the worker will not be able to participate in the program.

The aim of this policy is to work in collaboration with workers and stakeholders to deliver durable return to work outcomes for unemployed injured workers who lodge a common law claim.  This policy forms part of WorkCover’s return to work program.


When we receive a common law claim, WorkCover’s solicitor will assess the worker’s current employment status and if any rehabilitation services are required. If the worker is not employed, clarification will be obtained from the worker’s solicitor about their ability to participate in a return to work program.

WorkCover encourages the worker’s solicitors to discuss requests for any necessary and reasonable treatment and rehabilitation with WorkCover’s solicitor.

When it is confirmed that the worker is able to participate in the program, or it has been identified that further rehabilitation is necessary and reasonable, the worker will be contacted by a WorkCover customer advisor to discuss options. WorkCover will not discuss any details of the common law claim with the worker.

The worker will not be referred to a return to work program when WorkCover is satisfied that the worker is unable to participate due to the work related injury or another medical reason.

The worker’s solicitor is obliged under section 277 of the Act to advise WorkCover’s solicitor if the workers employment circumstances change.

A return to work plan will be developed, in conjunction with the worker, taking into account their individual circumstances. The plan may include vocational assessments, reskilling or retraining, job placement, host employment, work experience or referral to state or federal government funded, regionally located service providers who specialise in providing support and guidance for unemployed people to return to gainful employment as considered necessary and reasonable by WorkCover.

Any amendments to the plan will be communicated by WorkCover to all relevant parties. The worker’s solicitor will be updated and all documents relating to the plan will be disclosed.

WorkCover will review the appropriateness of the program during the life of the common law claim. This plan may be amended or stopped due to (but not limited to) worker non-compliance with the plan, updated medical evidence, claim settlement, potential fraud and other claim compliance issues.

A worker referred to a return to work program must satisfactorily participate in the program. What this means will depend on the contents of the plan but may include: active job searching, attending appointments, participating in job preparation, training etc. as arranged and considered reasonable. In our experience, successful outcomes are achieved when the worker is realistic and is actively engaged in finding work.

If the plan is unsuccessful or the worker chooses not to participate, WorkCover will provide the worker with access to information which may assist with future return to work endeavours. WorkCover will also advise our solicitor and the worker’s solicitor of the outcome.


WorkCover is unable to provide any return to work services if the claimant has lodged a “common law only” claim and WorkCover has not yet made a decision about whether the claimant is a “worker” with an “injury”. If the claim is accepted, WorkCover will consider referral to a return to work program.

Documents of interest

We can more promptly help a worker return to work if they have access to the following information:

  • Copy of their CV or statutory declaration outlining employment history, transferable skills and qualifications
  • Information relating to employment attempts sought during period of unemployment
  • Any other information which might help identify and obtain relevant employment opportunities.

This information should be provided with the Notice of Claim for Damages, if it is available.


Costs will be met for any necessary and reasonable services allowed under the Act and approved by WorkCover for the accepted work-related injury or injuries.

The worker’s solicitor will be advised of the cost of any return to work program before they are incurred by WorkCover.

In accordance with section 269 of Act, the cost of any return to work program will be taken into account in the assessment of damages.

Statutory charge

Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) program and Disability Management Service are rehabilitation programs provided with funding under Part III of the Disability Services Act 1986 (DSA). The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWAR) may issue cost recovery, in accordance with section 23 of the DSA.

Last updated
29 June 2015

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