The role of supervisors in a successful return to work

Supervisor and worker in warehouse

Supervisors can make a positive impact on an injured worker’s return to the workplace thereby creating a better work environment and reducing claim costs.

Whilst supervisors often feel that there is little they can do to determine the outcome of a worker’s claim, their collaboration and consideration of alternative, light duties can go a long way in helping the worker with their rehabilitation and early return to work.

Alternative suitable duties do not need to be within the pre-injury role. Consider other duties in other departments or divisions in the workplace that may be suitable for the worker. Whilst some tasks may appear menial or mundane, mixed in with more interesting duties over the course of a week, they can actually provide respite and relief for an injured worker. The key is to focus on what a worker can do, not what they cannot do.

Click here for more information on suitable duties.

Many workplaces also experience similar injuries amongst workers. Keeping accurate records of the injury mechanisms and what steps were taken with the gradual return to work, helps the employer to identify trends and eliminate or minimise those injury risks for the future, and expedite the rehabilitation and return to work.

WorkCover’s online services (WorkCover Connect) allow employers to:

  • track claims progress and analyse claims data
  • identify trends and injury mechanisms to help with contingency planning
  • generate various graphs and metrics for reporting purposes; and
  • monitor performance against industry peers.

Some supervisors may feel that a worker who is not fully productive when they return on suitable could be a financial burden on the company.  However, in many instances, the opposite can be true when you take into account wages and training costs for the new staff member in addition to wages compensation and medical costs for the injured worker.

It’s important to remember that the sooner an injured worker gets back to work, the lower the claims costs and impact on the employer’s premium.

What can you do?

  • The recovery process starts long before a worker is injured. Have clear policies and procedures in place so all staff within the organisation understand their role when an incident occurs. A strong culture of safety and trust ensures employees are comfortable and confident reporting incidents, injuries and near misses.
  • Encourage employees to report incidents and injuries early. This will break the negative stigma of having a claim and encouraging a quicker return to the workplace.
    Reporting the incident also serves to create a point of reference in case there is a similar incident in the future.
  • Go to the doctor with the worker. If the practitioner knows that the employer is on board with the worker's recovery they are less likely to provide a time loss certificate. Discuss with the practitioner what their usual duties are along with what other duties may be available.
  • If you need to take on staff to cover for the injured worker, consider participating in WorkCover Queensland’s host employment program, RAW.  This program provides employers with additional skilled workers for a short period of time, who can provide support and minimise productivity loss and whose wages are paid for by WorkCover Queensland.
  • Involve the injured worker in any training required for a new staff member, during their incapacity. They know their job and the safety precautions needed to avoid any future injuries.
  • Many employers are worried about the worker re-aggravating their injury. Research tells us that work is good for your recovery and the longer a person is off work, the less likely they are to ever return to work. If the worker cannot return to their normal duties, consider alternative suitable duties so they can recover while at work and monitor them to ensure they keep within their capacity limits. Being at work, even for a short period keeps employees engaged with their colleagues and up to date with skills, knowledge and procedural changes.
  • If an injured worker is unable to recover at work, try to keep them engaged and connected with the workplace and their colleagues by inviting them to training and team meetings and copying them in on emails relating to work updates, procedural changes, staff newsletters etc. Keep in touch with the injured worker and take an interest in the progress of their rehabilitation.  It is important the worker continues to feel valued and part of the team.

If you would like more information or have any questions regarding the above, please speak with your Relationship Manager or call us on 1300 362 128.

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Last updated
15 January 2019