Returning to work following an injury can be a difficult process and one that is hard to understand without the appropriate assistance and support. Make sure to seek legal advice from a lawyer to understand your rights and obligations, and support from your treating health practitioner. It is important to seek this guidance straight away so that you have a better chance at returning to work in the quickest and safest way possible.
Understanding your injury
Gaining a thorough understanding of your injury involves becoming well-informed about the specific nature, circumstances, and implications of the injury you sustained. This includes not only recognising the physical aspects of your injury but also its potential impact on your ability to perform tasks, pursue daily activities and get back to work.
The earlier you plan your return the work, the quicker you are likely to be back. However, your employer cannot force you to return to work if you are not ready – you, in collaboration with your treating doctors, are in the best position to determine whether you are capable of returning to work in some capacity. Importantly, returning to work does not require you to be at your pre-injury capacity or to have finished medical treatment. You can return to work at any stage throughout your recovery process, even if you are subject to limitations and restrictions.
Whilst we understand that a work-related injury/illness has a significant impact on your life, WorkSafe have found research that shows getting back to work is vital for your health and wellbeing.
Create a Return to Work plan
Creating a plan is a compulsory step in your return to work journey. This involves liaising with your treating practitioners, your employer and your occupational rehabilitation service provider to guide you through an approach to coordinate and oversee your treatment, recovery and return to work, whilst still prioritising your health and well-being.
In accordance with section 104 of the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013, an employer must, to the extent that it is reasonable to do so, plan the return to work of a worker. Your employer must consult directly with you, your occupational rehabilitation service provider and subject to your consent, with your treating health practitioner/s.
Your plan will be a step-by step strategy to assist in a smooth transition back into the workforce. It will include any restrictions and/or adjustments recommended by your treating health practitioner to allow you to adequately recover, do your job safely, and avoid aggravating your injury. You should always be honest with your treating health practitioner about what you can manage, taking into account your current symptoms, skills, capabilities and requirements of the role.
It is important to note that injured workers have return to work obligations that need to be complied with, subject to the limitations/restrictions specified in the certificate of capacity. Failing to cooperate or failing to make reasonable attempts to return to work may result in your WorkCover weekly payments being suspended and/or terminated. However, you also need to know the limits of your injury, and be practical about what you can or cannot manage. Read more about your return to work obligations.
Gradual return to work
Once the plan has been approved by your treating health practitioner, you will begin your gradual return to work. This allows for you to adjust and manage any potential challenges, whilst aiming to ensure a successful reintegration into the work environment. Adjustments may include:
- modifying your workstation or organising an ergonomic assessment
- adding restrictions on specific tasks, such as not lifting boxes over 5kg
- providing you with additional tools or equipment, such as a standing desk
- changes to your work schedule, such as less hours or days
- allowing for ‘work from home’ days
- rotating your duties more frequently and/or allowing regular breaks
- providing you with additional support from other employees
- providing you with additional training.
We remind you to be guided by your treating practitioner’s recommendations and if you are unable to perform a specific task, do not feel pressured or force yourself to complete it if you are uncomfortable.
It is important to note that your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with pre-injury employment or suitable employment for a period of 52 weeks dependent on the extent it is reasonable to do so. You can read more about the 52 week employment obligation period.
Support and Ongoing Care
Maintaining a support network is crucial as you reintegrate into work. Here are some suggestions to assist you in this process:
- discuss with your family and friends ways they can provide support and contribute to your recovery
- have regular conversations with your occupational rehabilitation service provider and treating health practitioner/s
- stay in contact with your colleagues whilst you are off work
- obtain legal advice early
- contact the Worksafe Advisory Service.
Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Your support networks are there to help you.
You should also routinely review your return to work arrangements. Your capacity for tasks at work may involve frequent fluctuations, making it crucial to ensure that you do not exceed your capabilities. Therefore, it's vital to maintain regular communication with your treating healthcare professional about any modifications.
At Redlich’s Work injury Lawyers, we can support you throughout this process and monitor your recovery and treatment as you progress. If you would like further advice on getting back to work after an injury, please call Redlich's (03) 9321 9988 for a free, no-obligation conversation or contact us using our online enquiry form.