21 Dec 2023
How to successfully manage an injured employee’s return to work

How to successfully manage an injured employee’s return to work

  • A successful return to work after injury relies on the support of the employer
  • Staying connected with your workplace can play an active role in the recovery process when the appropriate supports are in place
  • QBE and your broker can help support you when managing an employee’s return to work

Managing the return to work after an injury and workers compensation claim can be a challenge for both the employee and the employer. However, research shows that when work is part of an injured employee’s rehabilitation or recovery plan, it can help them recover sooner1.

There is a requirement for employees who have been injured at work to have a return to work plan in place – across all states and territories2. The employer should make themselves available and approachable to discuss the return to work process and it is important that the employee is actively involved in the process, too.

Maintaining communication and ensuring the employee is supported is crucial in helping employees return to work, explains Shannon Cleary, Head of WA Workers Compensation Claims.

“One reason people don’t go back to work after an injury is because they don’t feel supported by their employer.

“It’s important the employee doesn’t lose contact with the workplace, as having contact with their manager while they are off work significantly improves the recovery journey,” says Cleary.

The key role an early return to work can play

Female doctor/therapist helping injured man with rehabilitation

An important part of the recovery journey can involve an active role at work, says Chris Rymer, Head of Healthcare, People Risk Claims at QBE.

"The involvement of work as part of a treatment plan can be misunderstood. Previously, the thinking was a period of rest, a period of treatment, and then consideration of returning to work; but the research suggests work should play a much more active role in the early stages of this process.

"While there are no specific obligations to identify suitable alternative tasks or duties, employers who help an injured worker find suitable duties – and do that in a meaningful way – get the best claims outcomes.

“As the employer, you know your business best, and you are most likely to be able to identify where to find suitable alternative duties for your employee. Genuinely think about your business and the meaningful tasks that can be done,” says Rymer.

To help with this process, you may be able to use our suitable duties worksheet to support your return to work conversations with your employee.

How QBE can help you manage an employee’s return to work

Traditionally, insurers would pay the bills involved in claims without much involvement in the wider return to work process. Here at QBE, we want to help people bring their lives back together following an injury – and to do that, we have to be actively involved.

“In addition to our frontline case managers, we have a dedicated team of injury management advisers who can help employers understand what they can do to best support their employee coming back to work and, depending on the circumstances, employers can access our occupational rehab panel face to face, says Rymer.

“A rehabilitation consultant from our panel develops and reviews key parts of the return to work plan, which is ultimately agreed upon by all parties: the injured person, the employer, the injured person’s nominated doctor and the QBE case manager."

“We’ve also connected with Honeysuckle Health to deliver our Injury Support Program, which connects injured workers with a registered nurse who helps them to navigate the healthcare system, coordinate their medical needs and support them throughout their recovery journey.”

How can a broker help an employee’s return to work?

As well as helping on the administrative side of a claim, a broker can also provide strategic guidance around suitable alternative duties, particularly when they have a solid understanding of the business.

Supporting an injured worker throughout their recovery journey can be as simple as maintaining regular contact and asking how they are. The QBE team is here to support you with communication throughout the claims process.

For more on successfully managing return to work, view our webinar or explore more of our Q Risk Insights for managing people risk.

1 The Health Benefits of Good Work, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
2 Safe Work Australia: Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand 2021 (28th Edition) Return to work plans