What are suitable duties?

Construction manager

Recent research has shown that work has important health and wellbeing benefits. 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.

Encouraging an early return to work or recovering at work following an injury can help prevent long-term disability and improves the likelihood of a worker continuing to work once they've returned (called sustainable return to work).

If an injured worker is unable to return to their normal duties, WorkCover Queensland will help you develop a suitable duties plan to enable them stay at, or return to work quickly. A suitable duties plan takes into account the worker's current work capacity, medical advice and individual situation.

Together with your worker, we will identify tasks they can perform within their capacity and then work together until they can resume their pre-injury role. We work closely with occupational therapists that have expertise in the identification and implementation of suitable duties plans in the workplace.

In many cases, the worker is still able to perform a lot of their duties and able to make a valuable contribution— this will also help to expedite their recovery. It is important to focus on what the worker can do, not what they can't. The tasks and hours in the plan are often increased during the program as the worker recovers.

Benefits for the worker include an opportunity to:

  • Develop a range of work skills and improve work fitness
  • Reduce disruption to family, work and social life, as well as improved employment and financial security
  • Build confidence in their abilities to re-enter the work force
  • Promote worker self-esteem and psychological well-being—feelings of being valued

As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide suitable duties—to take all reasonable steps to help with, or provide, rehabilitation to a worker suffering a work-related injury, while they're receiving compensation. And it is important the suitable duties are meaningful to help support the worker returning back into the workplace. Think about the connection with the role and how it contributes to the business as this will help to promote reasonable levels of job satisfaction.

Remember suitable duties don't always need to be in the pre-injury role. Think about:

  • What other types of duties are available within the workplace
  • Projects or tasks have you wanted to do for some time but haven't had the time/people.
  • Tasks that match the skills and physical abilities of the worker.

To assist with providing a seamless transition, prepare other employees for the return to work of the injured worker. This allows them to understand there may be a change of the individual's hours or restrictions in duties and encourages assistance if required.

Suitable duties examples:

  • Admin and office duties (including filing, responding to emails, updating manuals)
  • Maintenance and audit checks of equipment
  • Stock recording/taking (computer or manual)
  • Customer services (answering phones, taking messages)
  • Traffic control
  • Updating/refreshing training
  • Cleaning tools/equipment
  • Cleaning light vehicles
  • Driving light vehicles (deliveries, ferrying staff onsite)
  • General light maintenance jobs onsite
  • Supervisory role or role assisting others
  • Support role to safety department
  • First aid inspections where certified
  • Spreadsheet and data entry
  • Assisting in a different department or team

Suitable duties plan template

For more information on suitable duties and injury management go to the WorkCover website, or call WorkCover on 1300 362 128.

Last updated
15 January 2019