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What is a person-centred approach?

Best practice

An approach that places the injured worker front and centre of their recovery and return to work.

Being person-centred occurs when you work in collaboration with an injured worker rather than telling or doing things to them.

Why this is important

Open communication, early intervention and treatment, and support that recognises an injured worker’s individual needs supports them to recover at work or return to safe work early. It also improves return to work outcomes, maintains their quality of life and reduces claim duration.1

Your toolkit

Suitable duties, reasonable workplace modifications, and supportive communication and engagement can support an injured worker using a person-centred approach.

Here’s how you can take a person-centred approach:

  • Talk with your injured worker to understand their experience, preferences and views.
  • Plan with your injured worker – define and agree on their goals, the steps to reach them, enablers, and barriers to help with return to work and timeframes.
  • Focus on your worker’s strengths, abilities and skills, and how these can contribute to a positive outcome. Focus on their capabilities and make accommodations in the workplace to support them to return to safe work earlier.
  • Find solutions that work for your injured worker’s individual circumstances and the workplace. Find a fair balance between what is important to your worker and what is important to the employer.
  • Put into practice the plans and actions you’ve agreed on. Have formal plans in place and update them to track progress and make changes when needed.
  • Use clear and agreed communication strategies and timeframes that are negotiated with and meet the needs of both your injured worker and employer.
  • Involve family and treatment providers. What support systems does the worker have? This may include medical and rehabilitation providers as well as personal supports such as family, friends and colleagues. Be aware of negative and positive influences. Monitor whether treating providers are providing effective, evidence-based treatment, and raise concerns with the insurer.

Superfriend’s Taking Action Framework provides an outline for best practice in managing psychological claims. It includes real-world actions and tools you can use to engage workers and develop your return to work messaging.

The Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s (AFOEM) recent It Pays to Care policy paper looks at why better return to work recovery outcomes are important and ways they may be achieved.

The National Disability Practitioners What is a person-centred approach factsheet includes a video about taking a person-centred approach; compares to a person-centred approach to a service/system centred approach; and a Q&A around ensuring person-centred outcomes.

The WorkSafe website explains a person-centred approach and the biopsychosocial approach for recovery and return to work.

1Superfriend, Factsheet, What is a person-centred approach?