Part 4: Returning to Work

Author: Senior HR/IR Manager for MHR, Christine Jones


So far we have looked at –

1.     What is WorkSafe and how does it relate to your business?

2.     Is your workplace safe?


3.     What to do if you have a WorkSafe Claim?



Now it’s time to look at -

4.     Return to work – the happy end to a workplace injury.


Getting your worker back into the workplace is a win-win.

You have invested time and money into your worker, and your worker is the holder of corporate knowledge that is invaluable to your business.

Plus, injured workers generally experience a faster recovery if they can safely return to work in some capacity.

Up to this point you have been going through the process of assisting your worker at the point of injury/illness, completing and submitting documentation as and when required, and liaising with WorkSafe, your Agent, your injured worker, and doctors, to meet your obligations as an employer. So most of the administration is done – it’s now all about getting your worker back.

Supporting your worker throughout the process has been, and continues to be, of paramount importance. All of us need to know we’re valued and missed, and when you are unwell or injured you really need the assurance that you’re still part of the team.


Communicate –

  • Make sure the injured worker is in the loop by keeping them up to date with what’s happening in the workplace.

  • Invite them to participate in staff meetings, training, or social events. (They don’t have to attend, but it shows you still consider them an active employee).

This also provides you with an opportunity to gain an understanding of how they are travelling medically – are they progressing well, recovering, and is the ‘Return to Work’ getting closer?


The Return to Work day –

  • Setting a date is a great motivator for the injured worker, and good for your business, but don’t rush the process and be guided by the medical team.

  • Your worker doesn’t have to be 100% to return to work; but you do need medical advice on capacity, as well as a Return to Work plan.

  • The Certificates of Capacity that your worker has supplied throughout their time off work tell you if the worker is completely unable to return to any work; able to do limited/modified work; or well enough to return to pre-injury duties.

(Certificates of Capacity; the WorkSafe Agent; your worker’s medical team; and your Return to Work Coordinator, will inform you when your worker is ready to return to the workplace and what duties they are able to undertake).


The Return to Work plan –

Your Return to Work Coordinator is the person in your workplace who helps the injured worker to get back to work. They will:

  • Liaise with the worker, their treating doctors, other health professionals, the WorkSafe Agent and the worker's representative, if the worker has one.

  • Provide a copy of the worker’s Position Description and actual duties to assist in the development of a Return to Work plan.

  • Prepare the workplace for the Return to Work, which may involve limited hours/days and/or modified duties.

  • Assess the progress of the injured worker, making sure that the Return to Work Plan isn’t aggravating the injury.

  • Suggest a revision of the Return to Work plan if the worker is adversely affected by the work or feels that they would like to do more – it’s a fluid document – however, make sure you get the worker’s medical team to approve the changes before implementing them.

Remember to be positive. It’s about what the worker can do, not what they can’t do!


On your Radar:

  1. Communication – Communication – Communication - the injured worker is still one of your employees and needs to be kept in the loop, just as they are in the workplace. Email, phone, message – let them know they are still part of the team by including them in usual communications.Administration – make sure you complete the paperwork and that you attend to submission of documents in a timely fashion.


Useful Links:

WorkSafe – processes/procedures/general information -

Return to Work process
Information for Employers -