Injury management is the process of managing the return to work for an injured worker, and it should start as soon as possible after an injury, because this improves the chances of a safe and durable recovery and return to work. A worker doesn’t have to be fully recovered or to have finished medical treatment before they can go back to work.
The role of an injury management co-ordinator (IMC)
If your worker’s injury or illness results in them having 5 days or more of total or partial incapacity, an IMC will be appointed by you or your insurer to co-ordinate and oversee their treatment, rehabilitation and return to work.
The IMC provides a single contact for everyone involved in the injury management process. Aside from the worker and your insurer, this might be:
- the worker’s primary treating doctor
- a return to work co-ordinator (if your workplace has more than 100 workers), who can provide the worker with support
- a workplace rehabilitation provider, who provides specific workplace rehabilitation services such as assessing the worker’s functional capacity, rehabilitation counselling, and advice about job modification.
Keep your worker's job open
You must keep your injured worker's job available for them to return to for 12 months, unless:
- there is medical evidence that it is highly unlikely the worker will be able to do their pre-injury job, or
- their pre-injury job is no longer required.
If you decide to terminate a worker's employment for either of these reasons, you must tell the worker and your insurer in writing of the reasons.
However, terminating a worker's employment does not necessarily mean your obligations to the worker for injury management and compensation cease. You must also bear in mind any relevant industrial relations law relating to termination of employment.
Return to work plans and injury management plans
Where a worker suffers a significant injury (one that requires, or is likely to require, the worker to have 5 days or more of total or partial incapacity), the injury management co-ordinator assigned to them must ensure there is a plan for co-ordinating and managing the worker's treatment, rehabilitation and return to work.
There are two types of plans for managing a significant workplace injury: return to work plans and injury management plans.
The type of plan used depends on the time your worker is (or is likely to be) incapacitated for work:
- a return to work plan is a simple plan for co-ordinating and managing treatment, rehabilitation and return to work of an injured worker
- an injury management plan is a more comprehensive plan than a return to work plan.
Both plans make sure there is a consistent and agreed understanding of what is going to happen, and what to expect during the injury management process.
Plans should be signed by all parties where possible and must be realistic, tailored to the individual worker's circumstances, and developed according to the insurer's injury management program approved by the WorkCover Tasmania Board.
Plans must also be developed and implemented within the time frames set out in your or your insurer’s injury management program.
Suitable alternative duties
An injured worker may not be able to perform their normal duties, but have the capacity to carry out alternative suitable duties. Where a worker cannot return to their pre-injury job, you must provide suitable alternative duties.
These are duties that:
- the worker is suited to, and are not demeaning or token duties
- take into account the nature of the worker’s incapacity and their pre-injury employment and skills
- take into account medical advice or restrictions on what they can and can’t do
- are set out in a return to work plan that has been agreed to by you and your injured employee.
You must consult with your injured worker and their treating doctor to decide on the alternative duties and ensure these do not hamper the worker’s recovery.
If you do not believe it is reasonable or practical to provide alternative duties for a worker, you must advise the worker in writing of the reason why.
Helping your worker get back to work
- Encourage a supportive workplace culture.
- If you have a policy with a licensed insurer, check you have access to their injury management progam and that you comply with the program, as this will support your worker during the return to work process.
- Involve the injured worker plus their co-workers and supervisors to identify a list of meaningful alternative duties.
- Involve the injured worker's treating doctor in identifying alternative duties; for example, develop a list of essential functions of particular jobs for the doctor to complete.
- Seek specialist or external support for complex cases.
Disputes about injury management
If there is a dispute over injury management, you must inform the injured worker’s injury management co-ordinator, who must try to resolve the dispute through informal mediation.
If the dispute is not resolved this way, then any of the parties can refer it to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal.