Despite these factors and the obstacles they pose, developing a return to work plan for injured workers should be a priority for employers. Resources such as the Health Benefits of Good Return to Work (2011), Good Work Design (2013) and the National Return to Work Strategy 2020 – 2030 by Safe Work Australia, provide a framework, which helps employers through any challenges posed in developing a good return to work.
As employers, you have a legal obligation under the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 to support an injured worker to return to work and develop a structured return to work plan if medically appropriate. It is imperative to support workers return to work (RTW) as evidences show that the longer you are off work, the less likely you are to return to work.
Experience shows that if you are off work for:
This has significant implications from several perspectives like claims cost, business culture, work force capacity, policies and procedures.
Mental health issues are increasingly prevalent throughout organisations; 1 in 5 Australians are
diagnosed with a mental health condition every year (such as depression, anxiety and substance use).
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine launched a position statement in 2013, outlining the fundamental premise behind the question, ‘What is Good Work?’. They identified four domains of good work by design:
a. Aware managers, but not necessarily aware employees, who manage change effectively, focusing on mental and psychological wellbeing, security and life balance;
b. Clear and realistic performance indicators to guide and acknowledge the efforts of the worker;
c. Use of hard and transparent ‘people productivity metrics’; and
d. Matching ‘the work’ to the ‘individual’.
Return to work programs and planning support optimal recovery and a timely and positive re-engagement in work that is productive for both the worker and employer.
Workers return to physically and psychologically safe and supportive workplace.
Stakeholders understand, promote and embed the principles of ‘Good Work’ in practice, recognising that good work is good for health and supports recovery.
Stakeholders share relevant information and engage in coordinated and collaborative approach to return to work.
There is commitment to using data and evidence, measuring success and sharing learnings to drive innovation and continual improvement.
Although we are working within an evolving landscape, using the Good Work Design and Guiding Principles can support you in designing a good return to work program for an injured employee. It provides you with a framework for being agile and adaptable whilst reaping the numerous health benefits for employees. With healthy employees come many positive effects for your organisation, ranging from improved productivity, culture and work practices to positive claims experiences and improved claims costs.
A key part of WorkCover WA’s role is providing education and assistance to employers to support them with return to work and they have created extensive resources for employers.
It was April 2022 when the LGIS injury prevention team visited Craigie Leisure Centre (CLC) to review the Kindy Gym program.