How long should a worker be given employment after they are injured
As a return to work coordinator, how might you work with a worker during the employment obligation period?
The employment obligation period
The obligation for an employer to provide an injured worker with pre-injury and/or suitable employment is called the ‘employment obligation period’.
While the obligation exists for 52 weeks its important to note that this is not necessarily 52 consecutive calendar weeks as it only takes into account those periods that a worker has an incapacity for work (resulting from or materially contributed to by the injury to which the employment obligation relates).
Calculating your own employer obligation period can be more complicated than it seems, so if you are at all unsure, you should talk with your agent and ask for their advice.
The employer obligation period does not include:
any period during which the worker does not have an incapacity for work
any period commencing from the date the worker's claim has been rejected by the agent or self-insurer and ending on the date that a direction or recommendation of a Conciliation Officer or a court determination that weekly payments are to be paid is made (unless the employer continues to provide suitable or pre-injury employment during that time)
any period commencing on the date that WorkSafe sets aside a decision to accept a claim for compensation against an employer, and ending on the date that a direction or recommendation of a Conciliation Officer or a court determination that weekly payments are to be paid is made (unless the employer continues to provide suitable or pre-injury employment during that time)
any period commencing on the date a decision to revoke a direction of a Conciliation Officer to pay weekly payments is made and ending on the date that weekly payments resume (unless the employer continues to provide suitable or pre-injury employment during that time).
The end of the requirement to provide suitable or pre-injury employment does not necessarily mean that an employer can terminate a worker's employment.
There are employment and anti-discrimination obligations in other laws that an employer must also meet in relation to a worker's employment arrangements.
There may also be a relevant workplace agreement. WorkSafe strongly recommends that employers become familiar with these and other relevant requirements.
Whilst not mandatory, it can be beneficial to continue to meet the employment obligation during a period that a rejected claim is being disputed.
This ensures continuity and is good for the worker's recovery and return to work. Also, the time that an employer continues to provide suitable or pre-injury employment is counted towards the fulfilment of their obligation to provide suitable and pre-injury employment for the 52 week employment obligation period.
Solve return to work problems
Return to work coordinators play a valuable role in helping an injured worker get back to work. Find out how to solve common return to work problems to help you if you're having difficulty supporting an injured worker.