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Return To Work

Return to Work pic

Returning home safe from work is every Australian’s right. This funnels all the way down to safe work practices, training, supervision and the list goes on. Even when an employer and a worker do all the right things, sometimes an accident can still occur. There is a potential for prosecution, fines, loss of licences and even imprisonment if someone is found guilty regarding a safety issue at work. The whole Return to Work system is designed to help the worker get back to work safely and comfortably. 


What is Workers Compensation?

Workers compensation is a form of insurance that each Australian is covered by. It provides a wage for injured workers and helps pay all the medical bills relating to an injury caused at work. Each state and Territory in Australia has minimal differences in regards to how they deal with workers returning to work. SafeWork Australia released their updated July 2013 document - workers compensation comparison document showing the differences between each state and territory in Australia.

Comparison Document -


Employer's guide - return to work video

'If you don't have time to do the job safely, you don't have time to do the job at all'. This is a popular slogan that would make some readers wonder why people continue to get injured in the workplace. The fact is, where there are people, there will be human error i.e. miss judgment, lack of ability or simply human mistakes. Many workplaces change their work methods by taking the human factor out of the work tasks completely. This is a poplar move to insure that no human error can be the cause of a mistake.

Benefits of Return to Work

Returning to work is not always an easy topic to understand or see the benefits. However, it has been proven it's actually good for your health and wellbeing to return to work as quickly as possible. The longer you are off work the great the chance that you won't return.

Apart from returning to work having a positive impact on your mental sustainability, in some cases returning to work can be the best treatment for physical damage as-well, keeping you motivated and moving.

Having an employee return to work as soon as possible not only benefits the business by having an extra pair of hands back in the work force, but most importantly it will benefit the worker in more than one way. Remembering that at the end of the day the injured worker was injured in the workplace, so the business has a duty of care to help that worker back on his feet and support him along the way of recovery.

This is where the Law takes a stand, making sure that injured workers who ever they may be (apprentices, trainees, casual or part time staff, supervisors, managers CEO's etc) are supported appropriately to get that person back to work as quick and safely as possible.

 Below shows the benefits of the Employer and injured employee participating in the Return to Work process.

Worker benefits Employer benefits
• return to work quickly and safely
• less disruption to family, work and social life
• improved employment and financial security
• less time spent suffering from your injury
• Reduced level of impairment.
• return to work quickly and safely
• less disruption to family, work and social life
• improved employment and financial security
• less time spent recovering from your injury
• Reduced level of impairment.
• reduce disruption impacting productivity
• reduce staff turnover
• improve staff morale and workplace industrial relations
• minimise retraining expenses
• reduce claims costs and impact on premium
• help a worker's return to the workplace.

Impacts of long-term absence from the workplace due to injury

It is a proven fact; the longer a worker is off work, the harder it is to get that person back to work and back to their pre injury duties.

For  many workers there is a decreasing likelihood of them return to work following an injury the longer they are away from work. The below graph is a basic representation showing the likelihood of that worker returning to work over a period of time.

SafetyFirst graph RTW


Negative impacts on the person who is off work spread far and wide. Below is a list provided by WorkSafe Victoria showing some of the social, financial and job prospect impacts on the workers life after a workplace injury.

Social Financial Job prospects

Isolation from friends and colleagues

Loss of confidence

Loss of identity

Impact on family including children

Significant financial impact (workers’ compensation payments will not fully replace your lost wage)

Workers’ compensation payments are time limited

Most workers’ will not be eligible to receive weekly payments after 130 weeks

Potential loss of:

Work conditioning

Currency of job skills

Work status

Work identity

Work contacts

Confidence to perform in a workplace setting

Training opportunities

Promotion opportunities

A good educational idea for helping people understand the difficulties of an injured worker is to ask the person 'how would you like to be treated if you were to be injured at work'? Or asking them 'wouldn't you want this positive form of treatment if you were injured at work'?

Tips for getting back to work early and/or helping someone get back to work early

  • Act early – seek medical treatment when necessary. Don't wait until it gets worse.
  • Fill out all the appropriate forms and process them accurately.
  • Employer injury claim report
  • Workers injury claim form
  • Return to work Plan Toolkit
  • After the injury all parties need to try and keep positive and motivated. This will help with the person's wellbeing and getting back to work as soon as possible.
  • Don't wait until 100% recovered to return to work. There are always alternate duties (different jobs or tasks to what they were doing before their workplace injury) or light duties (the same jobs or tasks but with restrictions i.e. lighter lifting loads, regular breaks, no bending or twisting).
  • Work actively and corporately with those involved in the return to work i.e. injured worker, employer, GP's and other medical practitioners, Agent (insurance company), return to work coordinator and shift supervisors. Working well with the stakeholders and keeping up good communication throughout the RTW process will insure a swift and correct return to work process for all parties involved.
  • Raise issues immediately with the necessary people. Sort out any problems when they occur to stop them in their tracks.
  • If needed, seek outside help from professionals.

Further tips for getting back to work early

  • Keep up to date with the RTW case. Read all document and follow up any questions
  • Focus on the part you play not anyone else's. Don't get distracted or frustrated wondering what the other stakeholders are doing. Play your part well – that's all you can do.
  • Remember, working is part of the recovery. Use this to heal unforseen issues.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. The information and professionals are out there. Use them well! This may include GP's, RTW Coordinator, WorkSafe, Agent (insurance company). Visit the WorkSafe website for a great deal of return to work documents or call their free line.

Benefits of rehabilitation/ Return to Work

We all want people to return to work quickly and safely because we would expect the same treatment for ourselves. To make the process as smooth as possible each stakeholder needs to play their part accordingly. Below is a table showing each stakeholder's responsibilities.


  • keep a positive attitude
  • focus on what you can do
  • consider individual tasks of a job you could perform
  • participate in rehabilitation and follow restrictions
  • stay in contact with your employer and your WorkCover customer advisor
  • Make sure you’ve got up-to-date workers’ compensation medical certificates.
  • appoint a rehabilitation coordinator if required
  • keep regular contact with your worker and WorkCover customer advisor
  • identify and provide suitable duties for your worker
  • monitor your worker’s progress
  • Provide a supportive environment—be understanding of co-workers, etc.
  • focus on what the worker can do
  • identify tasks the worker can do from the suitable duties list provided
  • approve suitable duties as appropriate
  • monitor the progress of the worker
  • Upgrade as needed.

Customer advisor

  • guide the return to work process
  • communicate with all parties
  • focus on what the worker can do
  • help find tasks the worker can do
  • monitor the progress of the worker
  • Approve and reimburse the costs of rehabilitation.

Provider (if occupational therapist is involved)

  • focus on what the worker can do
  • communicate with all parties
  • provide suitable duties outline to the treating doctor for approval
  • Help (if required) with upgrade of suitable duties.


Links to State and territory Return to Work Documents

It has been proven throughout the whole of Australia that the faster a worker gets back to work; the more likely they are to return at all. Use the links below to locate sources of information regarding WorkCover and Return to Work in your State or Territory.

States and territories




Australian Documents


Comparison of Australian and New Zealand workers compensation arrangements




Jurisdictional body

RTW obligations employers

Return to work obligations – workers

info for RTW coordinators

Employer injury claim report

Workers injury claim form

Return to work Plan Toolkit

WorkSafe Victoria Contact phone details

WorkSafe Victoria Webpage

Return to work codes explained 

Code 1 of 4 Providing employment, planning and consultation about RTW

Code 2 of 4 RTW Coordinators

Code 3 of 4 RTW Information

Code 4 of 4 Cooperating with labour hire employers about RTW


New South Wales

jurisdictional body

Standard injury management RTW Program

Workers Compensation and injury management Fact sheet page

Other injury claim form

Employer injury claim form

Workers injury claim form


jurisdictional body

DVD lending library

Harmonised injury claim form (employer)

Injury claim form asbestos

Video - Worker definition 


Western Australia

jurisdictional body

Injury Management System – Template


(Template Return to Work Program)

Injury management guide for employers

Workers compensation claim form


jurisdictional body

Notice of right to make a worker’s compensation claim

Return to work injury management plan (sample)

How to complete workers compensation forms correctly

Return to work – making it work guide

Information about return to work injury management plans

Workers compensation handbook

Preparing return to work plans

Australian Capital Territory

jurisdictional body

Guidance nots – register of injures

Making a claim

Northern Territory

jurisdictional body

Claim form for workers compensation (employers and employees form)

Workers guide – for workers compensation

Rehabilitation – a guide for employers

Alternative employer initiative scheme

Return to Work – a guide for workers

South Australia

jurisdictional body

Re-employment incentive scheme for employers

Who does what in the workers compensation rehabilitation system

Injured worker booklet (part 1)

Injured worker booklet (part 2)

Injury claim form (worker and employer)