Tips for getting the injured worker back to work

Getting back to work following a workplace injury is an important step in your injured worker's recovery.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians' position statement on realising the health benefits of work (hyperlink to statement - highlights that being off work for long periods of time can significantly reduce the likelihood of a worker ever returning to work and can have a negative effect on the worker and their family.

This paper indicates that work plays an important role in any rehabilitation process because 'doing' promotes recovery. If a person is off work for:

  • 20 days, the chance of ever getting back to work is 70 per cent
  • 45 days, the chance of ever getting back to work is 50 per cent
  • 70 days, the chance of ever getting back to work is 35 per cent.

There are many ways to help an injured worker stay or get back to work including:

  • Appoint a rehabilitation and return to work coordinator (RRTWC). It is an advantage if you have someone identified and trained within the organisation who can assist a worker in getting back to work.  Even if your organisation does not meet the legislative requirements to have a RRTWC, appointing and training someone to fulfil the role will enable coordination between the worker, the insurer and the treating doctor.
  • Being proactive in your dealings with the worker, their treating doctor and your insurer representative.  A worker does not need to be 100% recovered to be able to fulfil some duties in the workplace. Set a date for return to work, and remember you don't have to wait for the injury to fully heal or for contact from the injured worker to commence return to work activities. Activity is good for their recovery, so put in place workplace policies and procedures to encourage recovery at work and improve the return to work culture.  
  • Consider what the injured worker can do, not what they can't do. Develop a list of duties in your workplace and review with the worker and treating doctor to see what your injured worker can do.
  • Remember that each injury recovery is different and the strategies used will differ to get a person back to work. Return to work options need to be considered and developed to accommodate individual personalities and motivations.
  • Explain to the worker what assistance and steps will take place in getting them back to work.
  • Maintain ongoing contact with the injured worker even when they have returned to work.
  • Use the experience of your insurer to assist in getting a worker back to work. The insurer will be able to assist you achieve a successful outcome.
  • Work with the worker, doctor and insurer to develop a suitable duties plan tailored to each injured workers' individual circumstances.
  • Offer ongoing support to injured workers and establish a culture in your workplace where workers understand they will be supported and encouraged to return to work if injured. Workers supported by the workplace following an injury are seven times more likely to return to work.  Some workers have difficulty at their first return to work attempt and may need extra support to ensure a successful return.

Last updated
09 November 2016