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What’s in a return-to-work plan?

By CCIWA Editor

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.

Click on the editable PDF for a hypothetical return-to-work plan.

Return-to-work hierarchy 

Occupational rehabilitation providers follow, a ‘return-to-work hierarchy, in descending order of preference: 

    1. Returning the worker to the same workplace in the same job.
    2. The worker conducting a modified job at the same workplace.
    3. The worker carrying out a new job at the same workplace.
    4. The worker relocating their same job to a new workplace (when a workplace’s location doesn’t suit their rehabilitation needs).
    5. The worker conducting a modified job at a new workplace.
    6. 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.

Plan essentials

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.

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.

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