Return to work
- What if I cannot offer suitable employment?
If, after completing the steps outlined, including discussion with your Authorised Agent, you believe you have no suitable duties at your workplace, discuss this with your injured worker, and notify your Authorised Agent. (Your Agent may choose to verify this through a workplace assessment by an approved occupational rehabilitation provider or may ask you for evidence in support of your reasons). A statement should be made in the return to work plan to this effect, together with a date when you will review the situation again. As your injured workers capacity improves and/or your business and staffing requirements change it is expected that you will continue to review whether you can offer suitable employment to your injured worker. If you reasonably cannot make an offer of suitable employment at a given time, this does not mean your obligation to do so under law is removed.
Hence, it is important to review the availability of suitable employment at your workplace as your injured worker’s circumstances may change as their recovery progresses and their ability to undertake work improves.
- Am I exempt from providing a RTW program to an injured worker?
The only exception to providing suitable employment is where complying with the Act would cause unjustifiable hardship to the employer, as approved by the VWA.
(1) An employer need not comply with Section 155A if doing so would cause unjustifiable hardship to the employer.
Accident Compensation Act 1985 s155B(1)
Section 155B (2) outlines the relevant factors which must be considered when determining whether compliance with section 155A would cause unjustifiable hardship to the employer.
- How do I manage my RTW obligations for employees who have been employed for their specific skills and are no longer able to perform the same as a result of their restrictions?
You should offer any injured worker the opportunity to undertake suitable work while they recover from their injury. If your injured worker has a current work capacity , you are required by law to provide them with suitable employment to assist them to return to work. (This is best explained in the RTW Guide Page 52)
- What are my RTW obligations as an employer for injured fixed term employees?
This is best explained in the RTW Guide
When a worker has a work related injury or illness, you should do 3 things to ensure their return to work:
- Appoint a RTW Co-ordinator (Page 17)
- Develop & implement a RTW Plan (Page 20)
- Support & monitor your worker (Page 22) and (“What to do if a worker is injured”-Page 16)
- What does a RTW coordinator do?
The key functions of a return to work co-ordinator are listed in section 161 of the Act. They are also explained clearly on the VWA website.
A return to work co-ordinator nominated for the purposes of section 156(2) must –
(a) assist injured workers, where prudent and practicable, to remain at or return to work as soon as possible after injury;
(b) liaise with any parties involved in the occupational rehabilitation of, or provision of medical or hospital services to, an injured worker;
(c) monitor the progress of an injured worker’s capacity to return to work;
(d) ensure that, where reasonably necessary, an injured worker is given access to occupational rehabilitation services;
(e) take steps to as far as practicable prevent recurrence or aggravation of the relevant injury upon the worker’s return to work;
(f) assist in meeting the requirements of this Part [i.e. Part VI of Act]
Accident Compensation Act 1985 s161
- How do I identify suitable work for staff that are employed for their specific skills?
If you are unsure whether you can offer suitable employment, or are having difficulty identifying suitable duties, seek further assistance:
1. Speak with your worker's treating health practitioner (or even invite them to visit your workplace), review the available work and advise you which duties your worker could do; and/or
2. Fax the treating health practitioner a list of possible duties for your injured worker or even a statement outlining your willingness to accommodate restrictions, modified hours etc..to assist in getting your injured worker back to work
3. Speak with your Authorised Agent about whether an occupational rehabilitation service such as a workplace assessment may be appropriate. An Occupational rehabilitation provider can assist you in identifying suitable duties, planning for RTW and in liaising with your workers treating health practitioner.
- What if my worker is unable to return to work?
Maintaining contact with your worker and their treating practitioner will alert you to any changing work capacity. When your worker's injury is sufficiently improved, their return to work should be reconsidered. If the treating practitioner indicates that your worker is unable to return to work you must still have a documented return to work plan, however an offer of suitable employment may not be able to be made at that time. The plan should continue to be regularly reviewed with your worker and their treating health practitioner, ready for the opportunity to provide duties when your injured worker is able.
If the treating health practitioner indicates that your worker's injury is unlikely to recover sufficiently to allow them to return to any work at your workplace, given the duties you have available and you are unable to offer your worker a new job, advise your Authorised Agent immediately. An alternative return to work strategy should be discussed and then agreed with your injured worker and their treating health practitioner.
- What if my worker will never return to their normal work?
If your worker remains unable to return to their normal work because of their injury, modifications to their job may need to be permanent. If this is not possible long term, you should consider whether you have any jobs your worker could do if they were provided with retraining. If there are no suitable employment opportunities at your workplace because of your worker's injury, you will have to consider what other assistance your worker will need to find suitable employment. The return to work guide 57 .
You should discuss future employment options with your worker first and then their treating health practitioner, and consult with your Authorised Agent. It may be necessary to refer your worker to an approved occupational rehabilitation provider for assistance to identify new employment opportunities.
This may mean that your worker requires assistance to identify a new employment goal in order to obtain a new job with a different employer, which may also include vocational re-education or retraining. Full details regarding the occupational rehabilitation services available to assist injured worker’s to obtain a new employer are available at www.workcover.vic.gov.au
- Who is responsible for developing a RTW plan and who is involved?
If your annual remuneration is <$1 million, at the outset of each claim you must appoint a RTW Co-ordinator & advise everyone involved in the claim who that person is (Employers whose annual remuneration is >$1 million should have a RTW Co-ordinator at all times)
The RTW Co-ordinator should have the ability to liaise with all parties, monitor the progress of your injured worker & ensure the return to work plan & risk management program are developed implemented
The RTW Co-ordinator is responsible for dealing with the injured worker in a supportive & effective way, maintaining a good relationship with them & managing the RTW process. ( Page 17 RTW guide “What to do if a worker is injured”