Communication between the key parties - the employer, the worker, and the medical practitioner - is critical for successful injury management. Each must understand their obligations and the expectations placed upon them, which are enforced by the Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005 (the Code) in most cases.
What is expected of the employer?
Employers must ensure the content of the return to work program meets the requirement of the Code, as a minimum. Employers may include additional arrangements to suit their particular workplaces.
Employers must also give the injured worker an opportunity to participate in the establishment of the worker’s return to work program. It is not adequate to simply provide a worker with information about a program developed for them.
Furthermore, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure the worker agrees with the content of the worker’s return to work program. If there are any disagreements, the employer should attempt to resolve them directly with the worker. The employer should discuss the issue with the insurer and consider arranging a case conference involving the treating medical practitioner if medical issues are in contention.
- If attempts to reach an agreement with the worker fail, employers are encouraged to confirm the return to work direction with the worker in writing. If there is a dispute between the employer and worker, assistance to resolve the dispute is available through the Conciliation and Arbitration Services (CAS).
Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure the actions listed in a return to work program are done in a timely manner.
Employers must keep an injured worker’s position available during the worker’s incapacity (where reasonably practicable) for 12 months from the day the worker is entitled to receive weekly payments. If the injured worker attains partial or total capacity to work during this time, the employer must provide their original position (where reasonably practicable), or another of equal status and pay for which they are qualified and capable of performing.
- During the 12 month period, if the employer intends to dismiss the injured worker, 28 days notice of that intention must be given to the worker and to WorkCover WA by completing Form 15G - Notice of Intention to Dismiss a Worker (Word - 160kb). The submission to WorkCover WA must include:
- the terms of the redundancy
- the current medical certification of the worker (as per the most recent Progress Medical Certificate)
- whether the worker is still in receipt of weekly payments.
- WorkCover WA will then determine if any further information is required, and a compliance officer may contact the employer to discuss details of the termination.
- Note: even if dismissed, the worker is still entitled to receive statutory weekly payments and medical / related benefits.
What is expected of the worker?
Active participation by the injured worker is essential to successful injury management. It is important that the injured worker take an active role in the planning and execution of their Return to Work Program and make reasonable efforts to return to work.
It is reasonable to expect that an injured worker will:
- Report any injury early
- Complete the workers’ compensation claim form
- Provide original copies of their medical certificates in a timely fashion
- Attend medical and other treatment appointments arranged by the treating doctor, or where permitted, arranged by the employer
- If unable to attend an appointment, take reasonable steps to make an alternative appointment as soon as possible
- Communicate with parties in an open and honest manner and reply to reasonable levels of communication without undue delay
- To the best of their ability carry out agreed actions as outlined in the return to work program
- Immediately inform the Injury Management Coordinator and their line manager of any difficulties carrying out the return to work program
- If referred to a workplace rehabilitation service, actively participate in all aspects of the service and work cooperatively with the service provider
- Advise of any changes in their contact details
- Advise of any changes to their treating doctor or other treatment providers.
Workers should be aware that if they choose not to cooperate, their employer can lodge an application with the Conciliation and Arbitration Services (CAS). A conciliation officer may require the worker to participate in the return to work program if they are satisfied that:
- a return to work program is required
- the return to work program is, or will be, in accordance with the Code
- the worker is without a reasonable excuse to refuse or fail to participate in a return to work program.
What is expected of treating medical practitioners?
It is reasonable for the worker and employer to expect the treating medical practitioner to provide:
- a diagnosis and prognosis to both the injured worker and employer
- a medical certificate or other written notice advising the employer, where appropriate, to prepare a return to work program or that the worker has a total or partial capacity to return to work
- advice on work restrictions that may apply to the worker.
The treating medical practitioner will direct medical treatment, review the injured worker’s progress on a regular basis and may attend the workplace for a site visit. The treating medical practitioner should complete a Progress Medical Certificate at each review if the worker is not wholly recovered from the injury. When the worker is wholly recovered from their workplace injury the treating doctor will issue a Final Medical Certificate.
WorkCover WA’s Injury Management: A Guide for Employers (PDF - 1.3MB) publication provides further information regarding the role and responsibility of the treating medical practitioner. The Guide also contains useful information for effective communication with the treating medical practitioner.