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There’s nothing like getting back for getting better

Getting back to work after an injury is an important step on the road to recovery.

You don't have to be 100 per cent better recovered to get back to work. Returning to safe work when your doctor says you're ready can mean you recover more quickly and with fewer complications than workers who stay off work until they are completely recovered. 

You can find out more about returning to work after an injury below:

The return to work process

 

Focus on what you can do - your Certificate of Capacity

As well as treating you, your doctor is required to assess your injury and complete a Certificate of Capacity.

A Certificate of Capacity outlines the nature of your injury and how this affects your capacity for work. This information helps you, your doctor and your employer focus on what you can do at work, rather than on what you can't.

It's a good idea to bring a copy of your position description or a list of duties to your doctor to help them understand your job better.

Just like a medical certificate, your Certificate of Capacity lasts for a defined period of time so you and your doctor can talk regularly about your progress. Your doctor will give you the first Certificate of Capacity, but your doctor or other health professionals you may see (such as a physiotherapist) can provide you with further certificates throughout your recovery.

You'll need to give your certificate to your employer or Return to Work Coordinator to help them plan safe work for your return. This may mean different duties, reduced hours in your usual job, or modifications to your workplace that would enable you to get back sooner.

You need to have a Certificate of Capacity to make a claim for workers' compensation.


Set a date to return to work

Setting a date to get back to work is one of the most important things you can do for your recovery. Knowing when you expect to be able to return to work from early in your recovery has a big impact on when you will actually return.

When your doctor says you can get back, and your employer helps you get back, then you know you're good to get back - so talk to your doctor and your employer about how they can help you make a plan and set a date to get back to work. Even if it changes, it's important to have something to work towards.


The people supporting your return to work

Helping an injured worker get back to work is a team effort, and cooperation and communication between everyone involved is essential. The key people involved in your return to work are:

You

You are the most important person in your recovery and return to work. Being proactive, having a positive outlook, staying active and keeping in touch with your employer and colleagues will go a long way towards your recovery. You also have obligations to:

  • get involved in planning your return to work – talk to your doctor and employer about what you can do and set a date to get back
  • make a reasonable effort to return to work in a suitable capacity
  • cooperate with your doctor and other health professionals so they can assess your capacity for work
  • use any occupational rehabilitation services that are provided to help with your recovery and return to work.

If you feel you would like additional assistance and support, you can nominate someone (such as a friend, family member, union representative or colleague ) to be your return to work representative.

Your doctor

Your doctor will be involved from the beginning to treat your injury. They are also required to assess your capacity for work and complete your initial Certificate of Capacity. They can review your employer's return to work arrangements with you and help you set a likely date to get back.  

Your employer and Return to Work Coordinator

Your employer and their Return to Work Coordinator will support your return to work and aim to get you back to your pre-injury role wherever possible. They have obligations to:

  • start planning for your return to work as soon as they become aware of your injury
  • provide you with suitable, safe employment based on your capacity for work – whether this means different duties or reduced hours for awhile
  • make reasonable modifications to your workplace to enable you to return safely
  • communicate return to work arrangements with you so you understand what you'll be doing, and check in with you to see how you're going once you're back at work.

Your case manager

Your employer has a WorkSafe Agent (insurance company) that manages workers' compensation, so you may be assigned a case manager from the Agent if you've made a claim. Your case manager can coordinate and approve services to help with your recovery and will assist you and your employer in planning your return to work.

Other health professionals

Depending on your injury, your doctor may refer you to other health professionals such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors or psychologists to assist in your treatment. These professionals will also be involved in your return to work. Some of these professionals can also continue to assess your capacity for work as you recover from your injury.

Occupational rehabilitation providers

Your case manager may put you in touch with an occupational rehabilitation provider. An occupational rehabilitation provider doesn't treat your injury like your doctor or other health professionals but they can support you by identifying suitable duties, being part of conversations with your employer and health professionals about your return to work arrangements, and checking in with you about your recovery and return to work progress.

Find out more about these and other people who may be involved in your recovery and return to work.


Resolving return to work issues

Cooperation and regular communication between everyone involved in return to work can help ensure it's a smooth process.

But if issues arise, it's important to be proactive and try to resolve them with your employer first so they don't become barriers to you getting back.

If you find you can't resolve an issue directly with your employer, ask whether your workplace has an issues resolution procedure in place. Your Human Resources department or union representative should be able to give you this information. If not, WorkSafe has a Return to Work Issue Resolution procedure that you can follow:

GP Return to Work Case Conference

Your case manager may also talk to you about arranging a GP Return to Work Case Conference.  

This is a face-to-face meeting held at your doctor's office. It is attended by you, your doctor, your employer or Return to Work Coordinator, and your case manager and/or an occupational rehabilitation provider if you have one.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss what you can do at work, any issues and develop a return to work arrangement. You don't have to attend this meeting; however, it's a great way to communicate any concerns you have, take control of your return to work and achieve the best outcome.


Tips to help you return to work

Being injured at work can have a big impact on what you are able to do at work. You may be experiencing discomfort or pain and feel frustrated or helpless about your situation.

It's natural to be nervous or worried about returning to work, but there are things you can do to make it easier:

Communicate

Remember that you're part of a team, so talk to your employer and health professional about how you're going and how they can help you.

If you're away from the workplace, you could also talk to your colleagues about how you can stay connected with what's happening at work.

Set a date

Start planning early and work with your health professional and your employer to set a date for when you'll get back to work. Even if the date changes, it's good to have something to work towards.

Remember that you don't have to be 100 per cent recovered to get back to work – returning to work can be part of your recovery.

Stay positive

Focus on what you can do, rather than on what you can't. You may not be able to do your pre-injury role initially, but your employer and your health professional can help you put together a plan to get you back to your normal role. They can also look at what kind of alternative duties are available in your workplace while you recover.

A positive outlook and slowly building on what you can do over time will help you stay motivated and focused on your recovery.


Where to find further information

Visit our website:

Go to Information for Workers on the Return to Work section of the WorkSafe website.

Read our publications:

Talk to:

  • Your employer or Return to Work Coordinator
  • Your WorkSafe Agent case manager
  • Your doctor or other treating health professionals
  • WorkSafe Advisory Service 03 9641 1444 or free call 1800 136 089
  • Your union
  • Your nominated return to work representative