Returning to work after an injury

Having a work-related injury can have a big impact on your life

In these circumstances, getting back to work is important to your overall health and well-being.

The sooner you start planning to return to work, the earlier you can do so. Both you and your employer play an important part in this process.

Here are some of the things you should know about returning to work after an accident or injury.

Employers’ legal obligation

Your employer should be able to:

  • Provide you with suitable and/or pre-injury employment for a minimum employment obligation period.

  • Plan your return for work.

  • Obtain relevant information regarding your capacity to work.

  • Assess and propose the appropriate post-injury options for you.

  • Consider the most reasonable workplace support, aids or modifications to assist in your return to the job.

  • Provide you with clear, accurate and current details of the arrangements of your return.

  • Monitor the progress of your return.

  • Consult you directly on your return to work. They should also consult the involved health care practitioner about your treatment as well as an occupational therapist.

  • Appoint a Return to Work Coordinator who has the appropriate level of seniority and is competent to meet the employer’s needs of adhering to their obligations.

  • Provide all workers in the workplace information on return to work after an injury.

Labour and anti-discrimination requirements

An employer cannot take the following action whilst you’re in the process of claiming your injury compensation, or notifying them or WorkCover of your injury:

  • Dismiss or threaten to dismiss you from work;

  • Alter or threaten to alter your position to your detriment; or

  • Treat you less favourably than another worker in terms of promotion or reemployment.

There are also State and Commonwealth discrimination laws requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments in terms of hours, equipment, and conditions to accommodate your condition.

These laws apply to all workers regardless of employment status.

Your legal obligations

When you make a WorkCover claim, you also have legal responsibilities to do what you can to get back to work. These responsibilities include the following:

  • You have to make reasonable effort to return to work in a suitable or pre-employment position.

  • You need to make appropriate effort to actively participate and cooperate in planning your return to employment.

  • You have to actively use an occupational rehabilitation service, if needed, and cooperate with them.

  • You need to actively participate and cooperate on your return for work assessments, rehabilitation requirements and prospects for future employment.

  • If your Return to Work Agent requires an interview to enhance your return to work opportunities, you must actively participate and cooperate.

You must make reasonable efforts to meet these obligations so that you can return to work.

If your Agent believes that you’re not making a reasonable effort, this might affect your weekly payments which may ultimately be terminated.

Weekly payments expectations

You can expect the following when you apply for weekly payments:

  • Your choice of a treating health care specialist.

  • Your choice of an occupational rehabilitation provider from a list of three providers.

  • You have the option to be represented, assisted and supported at any stage in the return to work process.

  • You can expect a suitable or pre-injury employment after the injury.

  • You can expect that the confidentiality of your information is maintained.

  • You have the opportunity to review the decisions made for your claim.

Key people involved in your return to work

  • Return to Work Coordinator

Your coordinator will assist you in your return to work.

He or she must have the appropriate seniority level as well as the required knowledge, skills and experience in assisting your employer to meet their obligations under the Act.

Your coordinator will consult with everyone involve in the management of your injury and monitor your progress for your return to work.

  • Your Agent

WorkCover can engage Agents to manage your claims and make decisions on your compensation claims.

Your employer is required to choose an Agent and the Agent will assign a person to manage your claim.

This person is the primary contact for you and all those involved in your claim. This includes your treating health practitioner, your employer and any other parties.

  • Your Self-Insurer

These are employers approved by WorkCover to manage workers’ compensation claims lodged by their employees.

If your employer is a self-insurer, they are the ones responsible in handling your claims for return to work.

  • Your treating health practitioner

He or she plays very crucial role in your injury or illness management and help you to return to work.

It is your right to choose your treating health practitioner.

  • Occupational rehabilitation providers

These are specialists who will help your employer identify suitable employment for you.

Your Agent may refer you to an accredited occupational rehabilitation provider, and their services are usually delivered in the workplace.

If you are required to use this service, you have an obligation to cooperate.

  • Your representative

You have the right to be represented, assisted and supported at any stage of the return to work process, including consultation.

You may choose anyone to perform this function.

If you have chosen someone to be your representative, your employer should liaise with this person on the entire return to work process. However, your representative is not allowed to fulfil your obligations for you.

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