Recovering from an injury and managing with a reduced income can be extremely stressful.
Each state and territory in Australia has its own workers compensation (WorkCover) scheme to cover some of your wages and rehabilitation while you’re off work, but navigating the process can be confusing.
And what happens when it comes time for you to return to work?
This quick guide is designed to answer some of the most common questions around returning to work after injury, and to remind you there is support available if you need it.
How do I know when I’m ready to go back to work?
You will work with a medical specialist who will determine when you are 'medically' cleared to return to work duties.
Is it normal to feel worried about it?
It really is! It’s very common to be scared when returning to work but I encourage people to attempt to do it, with the guidance of your doctor (GP).
Getting back to work and into a routine is great for your mental health and rehabilitation.
If you have problems when you go back, your doctor and your lawyer can liaise with WorkCover to help you deal with them.
What is the usual process for returning to work?
How you return to work will depend on:
- your injury
- the type of work you do.
Your return to work may be a gradual process, and planning it will involve:
- your GP
- your employer
- WorkCover (who may arrange for an occupational therapist to visit your workplace and give recommendations to your GP).
What is my employer required to do?
Your employer is obliged to keep the same job open for you that you had before you were injured.
If you’re able to do some work, but not all of your previous duties, your employer may provide you with suitable modified duties.
What if I can’t do my old job?
Unfortunately, sometimes an injury will mean you can no longer do your job. If you can’t return to the same job (for example, if you’re a scaffolder and you’ve injured your knee and are not able to climb ladders anymore), your employer isn’t responsible for finding you a new job.
If this happens, WorkCover may arrange for you to:
- retrain in a skill that will allow you opportunities to work again (for example, teaching or driving machinery)
- be employed for a period of time by a host employer (such as Bunnings).
Both of these options allow you to get back into a routine, earn money, and develop new skills, and in some cases you may be able to return to your original employer afterwards.
What if I’m suffering psychologically as a result of being off work?
If you are out of work for a long time because of your injury, you may begin to feel isolated, bored and frustrated, which can lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. It’s important that you discuss this with your GP. If you develop what’s known as a ‘secondary psychological injury’, this may be incorporated into your WorkCover claim.
WorkCover also offers adjustment to injury counselling, which can give you strategies for coping and help support you during your rehabilitation process.
How can Slater and Gordon help me?
Slater and Gordon have expert workers’ compensation teams in each state. We can help you at any stage of your workers’ compensation journey. If you make contact early, we can monitor your case and help out whenever you need us to, including liaising with your WorkCover claims officer to solve problems.
My team often helps people who are keen to return to work but are unsure of the process and don’t know their entitlements.
We can make sure your rights are protected and you get the opportunities you need through WorkCover to move on with your life.
Slater and Gordon’s approach
We understand the stress and uncertainty you may have faced as a result of your injury. We approach all of our clients’ cases with understanding and care, and can explain the process from start to finish so that you have a clear idea of what lies ahead.
We aim to give you some control and certainty during what is often a difficult time.
With Slater and Gordon, you’ll also have access to our free in-house social work service, which can put you in touch with relevant facilities if you’re struggling.
For example, our social workers can help link your WorkCover with psychological treatment if you need it, and will explain the referral process to you.
We also offer No Win, No Fee* and a free initial appointment** for Workers Compensation claims. If you would like to speak to one of our Workers Compensation lawyers submit an enquiry online or call 1800 555 777.
*No Win, No Fee conditions apply. See here.
**Free initial appointment, conditions apply. See here.