Following a period of recovery from a workplace injury your doctor will certify that you have some capacity for work. At this point you are entitled to assistance in returning to work.
Unfortunately, for many workers the return to work process can be confusing because they are not sure of their rights and obligations. Many workers are telling us that they feel bullied and powerless by the whole process of returning to work.
Return to Work with Your Employer
A successful return to work with the employer where the injury occurred should be the ultimate goal for the employer and the injured worker. During the return to work phase of your recovery your employer may need the assistance of an outside rehabilitation provider to assist with planning and overseeing the return to work. This may be the case where minor changes to your role are required so that you can continue to work due to medical restrictions.
Your doctor may also wish to be involved with the return to work and may wish to have a case conference with you and the rehabilitation provider. As the injured worker you have the right to choose the rehabilitation provider and be involved in all decisions concerning the return to work program.
A return to work program with your employer should be meaningful and similar work should be undertaken which is designed to return you to your pre-injury role or similar.
Vocational Training and New Employment
If you are not able to return to work with your employer for whatever reason, a rehabilitation provider may be required to assist you to find suitable new employment or assist you to find further training.
Rehabilitation assistance must always be tailored to meet your needs. That may include counselling to determine your best options if you are not able to return to work with your employer. Evaluation of your transferable skills and guidance in selecting a job and, assistance in arranging for a period of training in a suitable alternative vocation should occur early in the process once you have been certified with some capacity. There are funds available for training under the West Australian workers’ compensation laws.
If you return to work in a new job that pays less than you were earning with your employer at the time of your injury you may be entitled to top up payments.
Following a workplace injury many injured workers will be placed with a host employer during the rehabilitation stage of their recovery. A host employer is usually required where the employer at the time of the injury cannot accommodate a return to work but you, the injured worker do not require vocational retraining.
A host employment placement is a short- term placement. The host employer must provide you with meaningful work which is similar to the work undertaken with your previous employer and inline with your certified workplace restrictions.
You should have input into your host employment placement and a suitable duties program should be approved by your treating doctor. Whilst you are undertaking a return to work with a host employer your previous employer continues to pay you.
A host employer does not have to provide you with employment once the return to work program ceases.
If it becomes apparent that your restrictions are going to be permanent and you will not make a full return to your pre-injury duties or an alternative role consideration should be given to closing the rehabilitation file and settling your claim.
Your Rights and Obligations
You have the right to choose your own rehabilitation provider. You have the right to decline to engage with a rehabilitation provider whilst you are certified totally unfit. The workers’ compensation insurer cannot suspend or cease weekly payments if you decline to engage with a rehabilitation provider whilst you are certified totally unfit.
You have an obligation to participate in a return to work with your employer or a host employer or to take part in vocational training once you have been certified with some capacity for work. If you do not participate in a return to work program or vocational training the workers’ compensation insurer has the right to file an application at Workcover seeking orders that you weekly payments are suspended or discontinued.
Perth City Legal are experts in Workers’ Compensation law in Western Australia. If you need advice on your return to work options, get in touch with our experienced team for a confidential consultation.