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The Return to Work Fund

WorkSafe recently completed a funding initiative to support innovative projects designed to improve outcomes for injured workers in Victoria. The initiatives covered the following areas:

  • Education and awareness
  • Conflict and stress
  • Changing culture
  • Training in the workplace or for the workplace
  • Best practice
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse workers

Some of the Fund projects achieved useful and practical outcomes that may be relevant to your workplace. These initiatives are outlined below.

Summary of initiatives

Austin Health

Claim Ready – Managing interpersonal conflict to improve return to work outcomes

Austin Health developed a program to prevent and manage psychological injuries resulting from interpersonal conflict, and improve return to work outcomes.  The initiative included manager training, an organisational awareness program and a mediation service.

Australian Industry Group (AiG)

Claim Ready – Preparing businesses for return to work

AiG's project prepared medium sized employers to approach return to work in a more positive and effective manner.  AiG adapted the WorkSafe Small Business program concept to help employers have the appropriate return to work strategies in place before an injury occurs, and to understand what is required if a claim is lodged.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (Vehicle Division)

Improving access to return to work for workers where English is a second language

The AMWU's initiative improves access to return to work for workers whose second language is English.  The proposed project tests the hypothesis that existing support material is limiting access to return to work options for workers whose second language is English.  It identifies barriers to injury management and return to work for these workers, and it trialled alternative visual material, to complement the existing "If you are injured" posters.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch)

Nurses return to work in hospitals

The ANF developed and implemented a three-phase program designed to assist the hospital sector to improve rehabilitation and return to work outcomes for injured nurses and staff, as well as reduce the human and financial cost of worker injury.

Australian Services Union (Private Sector Branch)

Improving communication, improving outcomes

The purpose of the project is to explore stress claims in the community sector and the legal industry, develop a model for early intervention to reduce the incidence of claims, and evaluate return to work programs in host organisations for the sustainable return to work of injured workers recovering from a stress injury.

Australian Services Union (Victorian Authorities & Services Branch)

Better return to work for Home and Community Care Workers

The project influences return to work outcomes for Home and Community Care (HACC) workers employed in the Victorian local government sector.  HACC workers often work individually, unsupervised and in a variety of household settings, which can limit return to work opportunities.  ASU aims to improve return to work outcomes for these workers by promoting cooperation within individual councils and by increasing awareness of all stakeholders including supervisors and workers.  

Australian Workers Union (AWU)

The workers perspective of the implementation of the Consensus Based Disability Management Audit (CBDMA) program within a company

The project aims to support the implementation of the CBDMA program in Victoria by preparing employees to participate in an audit.  Key elements of the initiative include development of an awareness program and information resources.

Ballarat & Gippsland Trades & Labour Council

Return to Work Project

Ballarat & Gippsland Regional Trade & Labour Councils developed an initiative to raise awareness among all workplace parties in regional Victoria about their return to work rights & obligations through workplace visits, collaborative research with a university and a return to work reference centre at the Ballarat and Gippsland regional resource centre.

Barwon Health

Development of an effective manager training program in the process of injury management to facilitate an early return to work

Barwon Health developed, based on the existing return to work coordinator training program, a tailored package for managers and supervisors.  The face to face training program was supported by the development and implementation of an online competency based assessment tool that forms part of an annual refresher program for management and supervision.

Bendigo Health

Educating for Early Return to Work Targets

Bendigo Health developed a training module and resource kit, in consultation with stakeholders, for undergraduate medical and physiotherapy students.  The aim of the kit is to raise awareness of what constitutes timely and effective return to work through the provision of targeted education material for medical and allied health practitioners.

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria

Padre Pio Project

This project developed and implemented an early intervention strategy targeted at workplace stress. The project focused on the education of stakeholders in the awareness and management of stress related conditions, and how early intervention can prevent stress from evolving into medical disease. 

Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) General and Construction Division

Trialling a suitable jobs register (for return to work) for the construction industry

The CFMEU Construction and General Division developed and piloted a construction industry Suitable Jobs Register in consultation with construction industry bodies.  This tool is an easy-to-use guide general enough for use across the construction industry.  It encourages increased participation in the return to work process by the key parties including treating practitioners, return to work coordinators and supervisors in consultation with their employees.

Murray Goulburn Cooperative Co Limited

Project ICE:  Intervention, Communication & Education

This initiative provides customised tools to support the delivery of early intervention strategies to rural Victorian employers, taking into particular consideration barriers which may be unique to regional areas, for example, access to health care services, availability of general practitioners and allied health services.

National Union of Workers (NUW)

A collaborative approach to improving durability of employer\employee return to work

This initiative develops a model that facilitates workplace support to injured workers and their employers.  It does this by developing a tailored return to work training program, targeted at Health and Safety Representatives. The NUW also provides assistance to employers and workers to help integrate these representatives into their workplaces. 

Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA)

Alternative return to work research model project

The RCSA project involved research into the effectiveness of a complimentary model to assist with the return of injured workers into the workforce, capitalising on the uniquely structured employment opportunities provided by the recruitment and employment services.  A full review of the impact on all stakeholders including Agents, ORPs, employers, injured workers and the scheme was also conducted.


Return to work knowledge base

This project developed an online research database to translate landmark return to work research into transparent practical knowledge, to facilitate positive and early return to work through educating and supporting workers, employers, treating practitioners and insurers.

St Vincent's & Mercy Private Hospitals

Changing the culture - An integrated workplace health management approach to improve return to work outcomes

The aim of this project was to create a positive and supportive workplace culture in the hospital to assist with the reduction of injury claims and achieve more timely, effective and sustainable return to work outcomes.

Textile Clothing Footwear Union (TCFUA)

Successful and Sustainable return to work for injured clothing and textile workers

This project raises awareness of the workers compensation scheme, injury reporting and return to work among TCF factory workers and clothing outworkers with limited English language and literacy (particularly Vietnamese and Chinese workers). The project operated in the Springvale and Footscray areas and workers were reached by the TCFUA through language classes and worksite visits. 


Return to work coordinator information package for small/medium employers (SME)

The project delivers, within the two-day return to work coordinator training course, a four-hour seminar specifically designed to provide SMEs with a basic understanding of the return to work process and how they can best meet their associated legislative responsibilities.  It is intended that these seminars be supported by targeted guidance material, a telephone hotline with a dedicated toll free number to support return to work related enquiries and roundtable discussions as an optional component of the seminars.

Victorian Trades Hall Council

More durable return to work outcomes through awareness

The project delivers more durable return to work outcomes through raising awareness among workplace parties about their rights and obligations on return to work issues, and how to help them achieve more effective and durable return to work outcomes. 

Victoria Police

Stress Intervention Process (SIP) videoing of the case conference process

The Victoria Police aimed to achieve better return to work outcomes for injured workers through a project for more meaningful and constructive case conferencing as part of the Stress Intervention Program.  Victoria Police identified that the case conference can be a very effective tool in managing the return to work process, however the relevant parties can be hesitant to participate.  To overcome this hurdle, the Victoria Police produced a DVD of the case conference to help explain and demystify the process, to encourage injured worker participation and improve communication between those involved.  The DVD has the potential to be applied to other industries and claims where case conferencing is used.