Suitable work

What a successful return to work after a psychological injury involves, how to identify suitable duties and reasonable modification or support after a psychological injury.

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Successful return to work after a psychological injury

Successful return to work after a psychological injury involves:

  • Maintaining regular contact with your injured worker, particularly if they are away from the workplace, which is essential for ensuring effective communication and support.
  • Identifying any hazard thought to have led to the original injury, or which may be present in new duties and taking all reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise these.
  • Effective consultation with everyone involved in the recovery at or return to work process including the injured worker, managers/supervisor, case manager and treating practitioners.
  • Clearly establishing the injured worker's capacity to work; what they can safely do and when they are likely to return to pre-injury work duties.
  • Clearly identifying what support is required and who is responsible for each action, maintaining appropriate confidentiality.
  • Considering any other factors that may impact on your worker's capacity to work for example, medication, travel, and any support services.

Some injured workers may not require time off work and instead may need some modifications of their role to allow them to recover at work. Other workers may return to work gradually after taking some time away from the workplace.

As an employer you are required to give your worker the opportunity to recover at work after a work-related injury by providing suitable work, if returning to the workers pre-injury role is not initially possible.

When providing suitable work, you must seek to ensure that work is so far as reasonably practicable the same as, or equivalent to, the role in which the worker was in at the time of the injury.

Actively suggesting suitable or alternate duties and showing your willingness to support your worker during the process can increase the likelihood of their early and durable return to work.

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What is suitable work?

Suitable work meets an employee's capacities, skills and experience whilst also considering any medical limitations.

When considering what duties may be appropriate to offer an employee recovering at or returning to work after an injury, you should consider:

  • the opinion of the treatment team and what is noted on the Certificate of Capacity
  • the worker's pre-injury duties and their role
  • liaising with their supervisor or manager to ask for suggestions around suitable duties
  • assigning tasks that are appropriate to the worker's skill set, education, and training
  • offering training opportunities where appropriate
  • whether you can make any modifications to the injured worker's role to assist with their recovery at work
  • working with the worker, their manager or supervisor and the treatment team to develop a recover at work plan tailored to the worker's needs.

When you need assistance, you can request the help of a workplace rehabilitation provider.

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Reasonable modification or support after a psychological injury

Workers may require reasonable modifications or support to safely return to work. When considering what tasks to offer your worker, consider those closest to their pre-injury duties as the first option.

You can also consider:

  • changing their hours of work
  • modifying their duties
  • giving them a different job
  • providing training opportunities
  • trying a different workplace
  • a combination of these options.

When modifying duties or locations it's important to ensure the worker does not feel stigmatised or isolated.

It's also imperative to work collaboratively with the worker and their treatment team to identify suitable recover at or return to work duties that align with their capacity, skill and current level of functioning.  

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Assistance with identifying suitable work

If you're having difficulties identifying duties in your workplace to accommodate your worker's current capacity and level of functioning, a workplace rehabilitation provider can be engaged to assist. This can be arranged by the case manager looking after the claim and involves the workplace rehabilitation provider coming into the workplace and completing a workplace assessment.

A workplace assessment involves reviewing the duties available in the workplace and assessing your worker as they perform those duties and determining their capacity to perform them safely and/or determining what modifications may be required to enable them to perform them safely.

The workplace rehabilitation provider then uses the workplace assessment findings to develop an appropriate recover at work or return to work plan.

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Lack of suitable work

Reasons you may not be able to provide suitable work to a worker with current work capacity include:

  • it's not reasonably practicable to do so
  • the worker voluntarily left employment, either before or after the start of the incapacity for work
  • you terminated the worker's employment for a reason not related to the injury.

If you are unable to meet your legal obligations to provide suitable work for your injured worker, you will need to show that reasonable efforts have been made to accommodate. This may include:

  • evidence that you consulted with your worker, their supervisor or manager and a workplace rehabilitation provider
  • demonstrate that you completed an assessment of suitable work options
  • documenting barriers that are preventing you from being able to provide suitable work options and the attempts you made to overcome these restrictions.

Note: It is an offence to dismiss a worker because of a work-related injury within six months from when they first become unfit because of the injury.

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