Being injured at work is a difficult thing to go through. Once you have begun the process of recovery, it is important that you get back into your duties as soon as you are able to. This is because it has been shown that returning to work after taking time off to heal from injury is a vital step in your process of recovery. When you are working, you have something to focus on, and you will have goals in place which you can work towards.
Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing is critical following an injury, and it is important that you are given the opportunity to return to appropriate duties as soon as you are well and able to. At Smith’s Lawyers we regularly work with people who have gone through having a workplace injury, and we are committed to providing appropriate resources to help you know what to expect.
Returning to work is a key stage in your recovery, and if you are returning to work after suffering an injury, there are a few important things for you to consider.
While you are away from work recovering it is important that you maintain regular contact with your employer. You should provide them with updates on your recovery and ensure you stay connected to your workplace. Your employer will appreciate knowing where you are at with your recovery, and it is good to maintain that contact so that you can move forward with returning to work when you are able to.
Larger companies are required to appoint a rehabilitation and return to work coordinator. Return to work coordinators assist injured workers to remain at or return to work as soon as practicably possible after their injury and recovery. If your company has a return to work coordinator, they can assist you by coordinating your return to work and ensuring your responsibilities and tasks are manageable given your injury.
It is important to note that only companies of a certain size (determined by the sum of the wages they pay annually) are required to appoint such coordinators. If you feel that your company should employ a coordinator but has not, you should seek legal advice as to your rights as an injured worker. If you work for a small company and they are not required to appoint a return to work coordinator, you will need to manage contact with your employer yourself. It may be helpful to ask a friend or family member to help you keep track of things in case you find that this is too much given your injury.
If you return to work and you are unable to perform many of the tasks or responsibilities you performed prior to your injury, your allied health provider (your physiotherapist or movement specialist) can implement a suitable duties plan.
A suitable duties plan is a work program that will help you improve your work fitness by slowly increasing your strength and ability to undertake your previously regular tasks. Your responsibility and your daily hours will increase gradually across the length of the program, with the aim of ultimately getting you back to work in your full capacity as you recover.
If you are unable to complete your old duties, then your employer should consider lighter duties for you, including those that were not necessarily part of your pre-injury role. While you may think that light duties means you are not being useful, it may actually be the opposite. After all, light duties might include finally getting around to that filing or maintenance project which your team has wanted to do for a long time but has lacked the necessary time or resources to get to. By getting projects like these done, you can contribute to the efficiency and productivity of your team in the long run.
If you are covered by WorkCover in your workplace injury, a customer advisor will oversee the plan implemented and will be your first point of contact if you have any questions or issues.
If questions or issues do arise which you feel cannot be answered by your customer advisor, you should seek legal assistance to ensure you know and fully understand your rights. You are within your rights to seek legal advice, and doing so will not interfere with your benefit.
If you are unable to perform light duties at your workplace, WorkCover can arrange for a host employer to have you in their workplace. You can take part in duties such as office work or sedentary work until your injury has healed sufficiently to return to your original employment. You are obligated to take place in this return to work plan and it is important to note that if you do not take part it may result in WorkCover suspending your benefit and ceasing your entitlement to wages. Host employment offers a way for injured workers to perform lighter duties in a role where their skills are still valued and leveraged.
This is a common concern, and it is justified. You do not know how your body is going to react when returning to work. If your pain has flared up but you still feel capable of performing less physical duties in your workplace, you should consider seeing your allied health professional who can work with your employer to revise your suitable duties plan to suit your needs.
Even if you feel that you are not capable of returning to work, you are obligated to follow the direction of a healthcare professional if they state that you can participate in suitable duties. Your suitable duties plan will not be signed off by your treating physician until suitable restrictions and duties are put in place.
If the pain is too severe to work in any capacity or you feel you need more time off, consider requesting a change to your work hours. For example, if you worked full time prior to your injury, you can negotiate a two or three day work week to ease you back into full time work more gradually. Your employer is obligated to accommodate your return to work in whatever way possible which means that any way in which you can return to work should be accepted.
If a worker’s compensation doctor has released you on the grounds that you are fully improved and can return to work but you still feel unable to work, you can see an independent medical practitioner for an examination which your employer must pay for. If your employer refuses to pay or withholds benefits payable to you as a result of you feeling unable to return to work, you are strongly advised to seek legal assistance.
At Smith’s Lawyers we are committed to your care and recovery when faced with a workplace injury. It is imperative that you take the necessary time to heal and recover, and a key part of this is ensuring the financial stability to recover without stress.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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