What’s in a return-to-work plan?
CCIWA's experts outline key considerations in building a return-to-work plan, share an editable plan template including a hypothetical case study, and unpack the key considerations behind building your own.
A clear plan is essential for an employee's early, safe return-to-work following an injury, which can be good for your business as well as the individual, providing them with structure, routine and a sense of purpose and wellbeing.
The plan is one of three essential elements to handling injury in the workplace. These include:
- a current compensation insurance policy covering all workers;
- a documented injury management system for the workplace; and
- an injury management return-to-work plan as needed.
CCIWA Safety and Risk consultant Matt Butterworth outlines how to build a return-to-work plan, like the one in our hypothetical case study, with employee safety at its heart.
Occupational rehabilitation providers follow, a ‘return-to-work hierarchy’, in descending order of preference:
- Returning the worker to the same workplace in the same job.
- The worker conducting a modified job at the same workplace.
- The worker carrying out a new job at the same workplace.
- The worker relocating their same job to a new workplace (when a workplace’s location doesn’t suit their rehabilitation needs).
- The worker conducting a modified job at a new workplace.
- The worker carrying out a new job at a new workplace.
In determining which option to pursue, a number of key considerations should be made, including identifying;
- any limitations to the injured worker performing their pre-injury role, as outlined in a functional capacity evaluation;
- suitable adjustments to the workplace, which may include modifications to job task, tools or equipment that may allow the worker to continue in their role,
- suitable alternative work or duties within the business; and
- anything in the workplace that may adversely affect their recovery.
Once these investigations are complete, the return-to-work plan can be built.
As a bare minimum, any return-to-work plan needs to include:
- details of the employee, employer, insurer and medical practitioner;
- the date and nature of injury;
- any work restrictions that may apply;
- the return to work goals (e.g. resuming lighter duties and managing the injury); and
- any workplace rehabilitation requirements.
Each Australian jurisdiction has its own workers’ compensation scheme and the Commonwealth has three.
It is mandatory for WA employers to follow the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act of 1981 and the Workers Compensation Injury Management Regulations 1982.
The Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005; Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management and Injury Management Conciliation Rules 2011; and Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Arbitration Rules support the legislation.