Good communication facilitates return to work; poor communication is a barrier to return to work. Workers’ compensations systems can be complex, and your worker’s understanding or experience of the process may affect their return to work outcome. Successful outcomes are more likely when communication is relevant, clear, trust-building, timely, accessible, and empowering.
Good communication facilitates return to work; poor communication is a barrier to return to work.
Consider your verbal and written communication from your worker’s perspective. Successful outcomes are more likely when communication is relevant, clear, trust-building, timely, accessible and empowering.
Why this is important
Communication, rehabilitation coordination, and understanding of workers’ compensation are key enablers for recovery that are within the power of rehabilitation and return to work coordinators (RRTWCs), case managers, workplace rehabilitation providers, treating providers and employer supervisors to address.
What action can I take now?
Review your written correspondence to improve return to work outcomes and culture.
Invest in the development of your soft skills (also known as people skills or interpersonal skills).
Clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in a worker’s rehabilitation and return to work (RRTW).
Be alert for the warning signs of ineffective communication, which include disengaged, uninformed or uncooperative stakeholders and unsupportive organisational expectations.
At the time of injury have simple, easy to follow information on how to claim and what to expect (PDF, 2.13 MB).
After an injury make early and positive contact with your worker. Show genuine care and concern and ask about their wellbeing, what matters to them and what questions they need answered.
Share relevant and timely information – for example, how they will be paid or available treatment and support.
During a claim communicate in a way that respects your worker’s preferred contact method and timeframe. Ensure all written communication, including file notes, is written in a respectful way, understanding at some stage this may be shared with your worker.
If you are facing resistance with return to work or need more support, talk to your insurer for options to help with the planning or for a referral to a return to work provider to support a supported workplace discussion.
- Review your existing communication templates and letters against Safe Work Australia’s national principles for communicating workers’ compensation information to workers, to ensure the:
- information is relevant – it is the right information, timely and helpful
- language is clear – it is plain and simple, concise and culturally appropriate
- communication is trusted – it is consistent with what other stakeholders have provided and discloses who else has received it
- communication is accessible – it is easy to read, access and revisit
- language is empowering – positive, helpful, supportive and allows for feedback.
- Collaborate with your worker, insurer and any treating health providers to develop and implement a Rehabilitation and return to work plan (PDF, 0.9 MB) (RRTW plan). A RRTW plan is a communication tool for all stakeholders, setting out the agreed steps to achieve RRTW and who is doing what. It’s also an important tool to improve claim outcomes.
- To feel confident, the soft skills you should focus on developing include:
- actively listening by allowing others to speak without interrupting, maintaining eye contact, asking questions when necessary and summarising to ensure understanding
- demonstrating empathy by acknowledging feelings, concerns and challenges
- finding common ground to negotiate and focus on positive outcomes and benefits of a planned return to work
- managing your own emotional responses and adjusting your communication style.
- If you or your worker need support, there are free and independent services to help:
- The Workers’ Psychological Support Service provides confidential support to workers experiencing a psychological injury, by connecting them to community and social support services appropriate to their needs.
- Workers’ Compensation Information and Advisory Service for workers.
- Workers’ Compensation Information Services for employers.