Get your injured worker back to healthy work in your small business

How to support a worker with a mental injury or illness return to or stay at work.



How this helps your business

Not everyone who has a mental health issue needs time away from work, but everyone will need active support. Giving them that support will mean:

  • your employees (who are vital to your business' success) may recover faster after injury.
  • you keep the skills and knowledge of your injured employees.
  • you reduce the costs of lost productivity.
  • you save the costs of recruiting and training new staff to cover the role.
  • you help build morale in the workplace by showing all employees that the injured worker is valued.

This action will help you develop the skills and work processes to manage the return to work for employees with work related mental injuries, as well as employees with other mental health issues.

Key stats and facts

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

In the video, Richard Wallace, a Victorian police officer talks about his experience of severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This may be a good video to share with your employees.

Step 2: Review your resources and processes

Review the flowchart below to see if there are any gaps you might have in your return to work processes. When following these processes for a mental injury, consider:

  • making sure the employer contact is someone your employee is comfortable with.
  • having an agreement about how you will communicate e.g. face to face, telephone, email.
  • agreeing on the frequency of contact e.g. weekly, fortnightly.

As an employer, you have the same return to work obligations managing mental injuries as you do physical injuries. You need to:

  • Plan for your injured worker's return to work. Employers must plan even if their worker is still off work because of their injury.
  • Talk with your injured worker, their treating health practitioner and the occupational rehabilitation provider (if involved).
  • Give your injured worker suitable employment. You need to offer suitable work for 52 weeks but this can be complicated to calculate as it is not always consecutive weeks. Contact your insurance agent to seek their advice.
  • Appoint a suitable return-to-work coordinator. Small businesses need to give the responsibility of return to work coordination to someone who has the appropriate skills and seniority when you have an employee with an injury. For very small businesses, this might be the owner of the business.
  • Make information about return to work available to all workers.
  • If you are a host employer and have labour hire employees at your site, you need to support the labour hire employer to meet their return to work obligations.

Remember you can use these same processes for your employees who are struggling with non-work related mental health issues to support them return to work as early as possible.

Step 3: Consider flexibility

Where you can, offer flexibility regarding work hours, shifts and tasks to help your employees stay at and return to work.

This kind of support shows employees you value them.

Take a look at this Heads Up webpage and video for some tips on how you can support employees who have a mental health issue. It offers practical suggestions on arranging work to support recovery.

Step 4: Manage return to work

The Return to Work website has Top 10 tips for small business owners when supporting employees who have a mental injury.

More information

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.