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Return to Work toolkit

Guide for employers:
What you need to know to help injured workers get back to work

When helping someone return to work, employers often have many questions and are uncertain about what to do and where to start. Below there is a list of frequently asked questions and guidance on how to take actions on specific return to work tasks.

What is Occupational Rehabilitation (OR)?

Occupational rehabilitation (OR) is an independent and impartial service provided by return to work experts with health professional backgrounds, to assist workers with a compensable injury or condition return to safe employment. The OR provider works with the injured worker, the employer and treating health practitioner to understand the injury, what the worker can do, assess work duties and agree on a plan for returning to work. Although the service is primarily for injured workers, employers also benefit from assistance in facilitating return to work. OR providers will also help employers in liaising with treating health practitioners.

What are your obligations?

Under the law, employers have the following return to work obligations:

  • Plan for your injured worker's return to work. Employers must plan even if their worker has an incapacity for work
  • Consult with your injured worker, their treating health practitioner (if the worker consents) and the OR provider (if involved)
  • Provide your injured worker with suitable employment for a 52 week aggregate period
  • Appoint a suitable return to work coordinator
  • Make information about return to work available to all workers; and
  • If a host employer, cooperate with the labour hire employer's effort to meet their obligations.

Employers are expected to actively participate and collaborate with the OR consultant, the treating health practitioner, agent and worker.

What is involved in return to work planning?

There are five key tasks employers need to undertake to help an injured worker return to work:

  • Obtain relevant information about your worker's capacity for work
  • Consider reasonable workplace support, aids or modifications to assist in your worker's return to work
  • Assess and propose options for suitable or pre-injury employment to your worker
  • Provide your worker with clear, accurate and current details about their return to work arrangements
  • Monitor your worker's progress.

Undertaking the above planning, involving the worker in their return to work planning and maintaining open lines of communication contributes to making the worker feel valuable and engaged.

Do you know how to identify suitable duties?

An employer must provide their worker with suitable or pre-injury employment to the extent it is reasonable to do so. Completing the VWA step by step guide to suitable employment worksheet will help you work through the options available in your workplace, as well as document your efforts to provide suitable employment. The OR consultant will also help you to identify suitable duties at your workplace.

Do you know how to engage with GPs and other medical practitioners?

Engaging with medical practitioners is key for achieving positive return to work outcomes. Providing complete and accurate information to your injured worker's GP is fundamental in getting them engaged. Below are some resources to help you draft communications with your injured worker's GP.

Do you know the WorkSafe has a return to work inspectorate?

The VWA inspectorate actively monitors and enforces compliance with the legislation. A return to work inspector may visit your workplace to assess whether you are complying with your return to work obligations. Inspectors will ensure you are appropriately informed. If applicable, they will issue an improvement notice requiring you to comply with your obligations. Employers who breach their return to work obligations also risk prosecution and financial penalties.

Why should you help your injured worker return to work?

Supporting your injured worker to return to safe and sustainable work as soon as possible is necessary to meet your legal obligations. It's good for your worker and good for your business. Return to work benefits the business because it can help increase productivity, promotes a positive workplace culture and keeps the cost of your VWA insurance premium down. It benefits your worker by reducing the financial, health and emotional impacts that staying off work can have on them and their family.

How does an injury impact your worker's finances?

Workers compensation aims to assist an injured worker financially while they recover from their workplace injury or illness, but it does not intend to replace their full income.  

What are the weekly payments rates?

Injured workers are entitled to weekly payments if they are unable to perform their pre-injury duties or lose income because of a work related injury or condition. Weekly payments are based on your worker's pre-injury weekly earnings (PIAWE), capped at a maximum rate and indexed annually.

  • Employers are required to pay for the first ten days of time off work
  • For the first 13 weeks workers are entitled to 95 per cent of their PIAWE
  • From 14 weeks onwards, their weekly payments decrease to 80 per cent of their PIAWE
  • From 130 weeks onwards payments may continue if the worker has no current work capacity.

Weekly payments are also influenced by the worker's current work capacity and what they earn while working partial hours – current weekly earnings (CWE).

How do you calculate CWE?

CWE is required to calculate an injured worker's weekly payment entitlement. CWE comprises injured worker earnings from carrying out suitable employment while they have reduced capacity, for example modified pre-injury duties at reduced hours or alternative duties. If the worker has a base rate of pay the CWE is based on the number of hours worked. Alternatively if the worker does not have a base rate of pay the CWE is calculated based on their actual earnings. 

Why should you complete an EFT form?

When a worker is injured and requires time off work and medical treatment, as the employer, you are normally responsible for paying the employer excess for medical and like services and the worker's weekly payments. Reimbursements for medical expenses and weekly payments can be made by electronic funds transfer (EFT) for faster more streamlined reimbursements. From 31 December 2013 reimbursements for weekly payments are made by electronic funds transfer (EFT).

Where do you get help with queries?

Your Agent should be the first point of contact for any claim related queries. Should you have any further questions about the scheme, return to work, Agent, OR provider, or anything else related to WorkCover you can call VWA's Advisory service toll-free on 1800 136 089 or (03) 96411444 or email info@vwa.vic.gov.au