Mandatory Return to Work programs support injured workers

From 31 May 2019, all businesses in NSW will be required to have a fully implemented Return to Work program in place to respond to work-related injury or illness.

Two men in safety gear look at ipad in factory setting.

A return to work program outlines the formal policy for employers to manage injury or illness in the workplace and represents a commitment to the health, safety and recovery of employees following an incident.  

According to Insurance and Care NSW (icare), social connections can be a critical part of returning to work in a sustainable, timely manner.   

“Around three-quarters of injured workers return to work within three months, but for workers who remain off work longer, their chances of returning are much reduced. We also know that the longer people are away from their workplace, the greater their risk of social isolation and psychosocial issues, which can further delay their recovery,” said icare Group Executive Personal Injury Claims, Beth Uehling.    

“Staying in close contact with a worker who has been injured can be beneficial for both of you - it lets the worker know what you’ll do to help them recover at work and allows you to outline your reasonable expectations around their level of involvement and cooperation throughout the recovery and injury management process,” she said.  

For most injured workers, time off work is not medically necessary, so supporting them to stay at work in some capacity provides the best chance of a good outcome. If a worker is not able to immediately return to normal duties, employers are obligated to find suitable work.  

“This simply means that employers need to take in to account an injured workers age, skills and the nature of their injury and find them alternative work which they carry out during the recovery process,” Ms Uehling said.  

A Recover at Work or Return to Work Plan is specific to the individual worker and provides information about their recovery at or return to work. The plan is completed by the employer in consultation with the worker and their supervisor and takes in to account medical information provided by the nominated treating doctor and any other treatment providers.

The return to work process should start as soon as possible after the workplace injury occurs. In the early stages, the most important thing any employer can do is to have early and regular contact with the worker,” Ms Uehling said.