A Return to Work Program is an integral part of any injury management system.

You are required to develop a written Return to Work Program for the injured worker as soon as practicable when the medical practitioner:

  • advises you in writing that a Return to Work Program should be established for the worker
  • signs a Certificate of Capacity indicating that the worker has partial capacity to return to work
  • signs a Certificate of Capacity indicating that the worker has total capacity to return to work, but for some reason is not able to return to the position held immediately prior to injury.
The Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005 (the Code) outlines the requirements of establishment, content and implementation of Return to Work Programs. The Return to Work Program must include:

  • your business name and the name of the injured worker
  • a description of the goal of the program
  • the actions to be taken to enable the worker to return to work and who is to take them
  • a statement as to whether the worker agrees to the content of the program.

As a minimum, you must ensure the content of the Return to Work Program meets the requirements of the Code. You may include additional arrangements to suit your particular business.

A Template Return to Work Program is available to assist you in developing an appropriate program.

You must ensure the content of the return to work program meets the requirements of the Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005, as a minimum. You may include additional arrangements to suit your particular business.

Participation

You must also give the injured worker an opportunity to participate in the establishment of their Return to Work Program. It is not adequate to simply provide a worker with information about a program developed for them.

Agreement

You must take reasonable steps to ensure the worker agrees with the content of the Return to Work Program. If there are any disagreements, you should attempt to resolve them directly with the worker. You 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, you are encouraged to confirm the return to work direction with the worker in writing. If there is a dispute between yourself and the worker, assistance to resolve the dispute is available through the Workers’ Compensation Conciliation Service.

For more information, see the Resolving a dispute section.

You must take reasonable steps to ensure the actions listed in a return to work program are done in a timely manner.

You 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, you must provide their original position (where reasonably practicable), or another of equal status and pay for which they are qualified and capable of performing.

Intention to dismiss the worker

During the 12 month period, if you intend 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.

WorkCover WA will then determine if any further information is required, and a Compliance Officer may contact you to discuss details of the termination.

Note: If a worker is in receipt of weekly payments at the time of dismissal, they will continue to receive statutory weekly repayments and medical/related benefits.

Active participation by the injured worker is essential to successful injury management. It is important 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 an injured worker to:

  • report any injury early
  • complete the workers’ compensation claim form
  • provide original copies of their certificates of capacity 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.
If workers choose not to cooperate, you can lodge an application with the Workers’ Compensation Conciliation Service. A Conciliation Officer may require the worker to participate in the return to work program if they are satisfied:

  • a Return to Work Program is required
  • the Return to Work Program is, or will be, in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005 (the Code)
  • the worker is without a reasonable excuse to refuse or fail to participate in a Return to Work Program.

For more information on conciliation and arbitration, see the Resolving a dispute section.

It is reasonable for you and the injured worker to expect the treating medical practitioner to provide:

  • a diagnosis and prognosis to both parties
  • a Certificate of Capacity or other written notice advising you, 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 Certificate of Capacity 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 Certificate of Capacity.

You may wish to engage a workplace rehabilitation provider to assist you and the injured worker with the return to work process.

Go to Workplace rehabilitation providers.

The legislation provides you may ask your insurer to establish and implement Return to Work Programs.

If an insurer establishes and implements Return to Work Programs on your behalf they must comply with the Workers’ Compensation Code of Practice (Injury Management) 2005 (the Code) where you would be obliged to do so, and the programs are still owned and adopted by you.

The insurer should involve you in decisions even when undertaking obligations on your behalf.

The WorkCover WA publication, Injury Management: A Guide for Employers, provides information to assist employers to understand their legal return to work obligations and contains a three step approach to effective injury management.

A PDF copy is available from the Employer publications page or hard copies can be ordered from Advice and Assistance on 1300 794 744.

To make your workplace mentally healthy, WorkCover WA encourages employers to take the first step by creating a customised Mental Health Action Plan for your business utilising beyondblue’s Heads Up resources available from www.headsup.org.au.

For support with depression and anxiety phone beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au.