How to support your worker

Your role as an employer is crucial in supporting your worker to recover at and return to work following a psychological workplace injury.

On this page

Supporting your worker

Managing difficult conversations

Messaging in the workplace

Things to avoid

Supporting your worker

Research shows workers have an enhanced recovery if they can recover at work (State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) Recovery at work insider Issue 12). 

To recover at work, there may need to be modifications in the way they work for a brief period.

You can support your worker through:

  • identifying work tasks within their current capacity to work
  • modifying working hours or days (if required and supported by medical evidence)
  • staying in contact with your worker
  • collaborating with your worker and their treating parties to understand requirements for recovery and return to work.

Return to work assistance

  • More ways to support your worker

    You can continue to support your worker with the following:

    • review your work practices
    • early communication with your claim service provider
    • make contact within the first 48 hours
    • involvement in the claim process
    • set up a 'buddy system'
    • recovery at work plans
    • workplace rehabilitation
    • schedule regular contact
    • invite them to work events
    • encourage positive self-care
    • offer list of community resources
    • social support.

    Our Social Connections Toolkit includes information and resources regarding the importance of social support and staying connected.

    Social Connections Toolkit: When a worker is off with injury

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Managing difficult conversations

The first stage in managing a difficult conversation is to understand the worker's perspective, their challenges and goals.

Start by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation. For example, stating: "I can see that you are feeling frustrated", "I understand that this didn't go the way you had planned".

Once you display understanding of difficulty, you can pause to clarify the problem and start to assess the cause and collaborate to identify possible solutions.

  • Be self-aware
    Your body language is clearly reflected in your voice and it comes through loud and clear on the phone. Be aware of your own body language, your habits and posture and also how it changes when a situation becomes challenging.
  • How you say things is important

    Think about your pitch, pace, volume, emotion and the amount of detail you are providing. Use positive words to generate good relations.

    It's ok if the conversation didn't go to plan. It's what you do next that's important.

    Reflect on what you could have done differently in your approach (in general and with that individual). Most importantly, look after you. Seek support when you need it and debrief after a challenging conversation.

  • Prepare and listen

    Preparing for the conversation will assist you with answering difficult questions and covering off on everything you need to.

    If delivered in a simple and transparent manner, the worker will be more engaged and more understanding.

    Gain control by asking questions to clarify issues, demonstrate active listening, don't make assumptions, get more information or use reflection to avoid misunderstandings and ensure you understand their needs.

  • Be assertive

    Being assertive is the ability to give a clear, direct, polite message to enable the other person to accept something they may not want to know.

    Assertiveness is being confident, considerate and clear. Remain focused on addressing the barriers in order to find a mutually beneficial solution. 

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Messaging in the workplace

It's important to be proactive in your response to a workplace injury. This includes how you communicate and your messaging to the wider workforce.

When an employer demonstrates they are able to effectively manage injuries in a transparent and effective manner, they are creating an environment where workers feel supported and a return to work is more likely to be achieved.

When an injury occurs, it may be appropriate for you to:

  • Communicate with relevant co-workers such as the worker's direct supervisor or buddy (if consent has been provided by the worker) that an injury has occurred, and the injured worker may need time away from the workplace to recover.
  • Explain to co-workers the role they play in supporting the injured worker during the recovery stages and their eventual return to work.
  • Ask co-workers for a statement relating to an incident.
  • Give co-workers the opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns they have about the incident leading to the injury or any other risks in the workplace.
  • Answer any general questions workers may have about the workers compensation process.

The workers privacy should be maintained at all times.

It is important that only relevant information is shared with the appropriate people in the workplace, once consent is obtained from the worker.

It would be inappropriate to discuss an injured worker's:

  • diagnosis
  • details of any medical history or pre-existing conditions
  • details of treatment or medication
  • details of interpersonal conflict with co-workers not associated with any grievances raised
  • details of pay or workers compensation entitlements
  • status of their workers compensation claim (for example is the claim accepted, declined, being investigated)
  • any non-work-related barriers or concerns an injured worker has raised. Some examples include concerns at home, family and carers responsibilities, financial issues, relationship issues etc.
  • any work-related barriers or concerns an injured workers have raised outside of general health and safety concerns. Some examples include grievances raised, performance issues, industrial relations/ human resources matters and investigations
  • the arrangement or outcome of any assessments relating to the claim such as Independent Medical Examinations.
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Things to avoid

As an employer, you can provide a supportive and positive environment by avoiding the following behaviours:

  • Blaming the worker for their injury: Workers compensation is a no-fault system in NSW. Instead of blame, explore ways to prevent further injuries and focus on helping the worker to recover.
  • Not keeping in touch with the worker: If appropriate, keep in contact with the worker. This can be done via phone, email, visit or text. Things like a chat about what's happening in the workplace or general news of interest goes a long way to reassure the worker, maintain positive relationships with the workplace and will assist with the recovery and return to work process.
  • Leaving issues in the workplace unresolved: If a worker perceives there are issues in the workplace such as unresolved conflict or an unsafe work environment, this will create a barrier for their return to work. As an employer, you need to identify these barriers and look to remove them. Avoiding this will prevent an injured worker wanting to return to work and will increase the risk of injury to others in the workplace. Listening and taking action when workers raise any issues or concerns regarding the workplace plays an important part in the whole claims process.
  • Stigmatising the worker: Unfortunately, there can still be a stigma associated with workers who are off work unfit and claiming workers compensation. At times, there is an unfair perception that a worker is 'milking the system' or using compensation to get out of work. It is crucial for employers and fellow co-workers to avoid this language and to be supportive rather than judgemental or confrontational. This is to ensure the worker remains motivated to return to work due to the positive environment.
  • Isolating the worker: It's easy to isolate the worker out of fear of saying the wrong thing especially in the event of a mental health claim, however, a worker recovering from injury who remains connected to their work colleagues has a greater chance to return to work. If the worker feels well enough and has expressed they are happy to do so, look to schedule a regular phone catch up or even a face-to-face coffee catch up.   

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