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What happens after an employee returns to work from a WorkCover claim?

Nobody wants accidents and injuries to happen in their workplace, inevitably when they do it can be a little confusing as to what your responsibilities are.

Each State in Australia, have their own laws around worker’s compensation and return to work obligations. We are focusing on Victoria in this blog, but if your business operates in a different state, you should check the regulations that apply.

Important points to note are that:

  • Employers have a legal obligation to get their workers back to their pre-injury role under the Workplace Injury, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, 2013
  • Employers need to provide injured workers with suitable employment if they have an incapacity for work, for a 52-week period
  • Employers should provide workers with pre-injury employment or equivalent when they have returned to full capacity
  • Employers should have a Return to Work Coordinator appointed

Once the employee is back in their pre-injury role, their terms and conditions of employment become governed by the regular industrial instruments and standards that govern the workplace.

It’s important to understand that employers who breach their return to work obligations risk prosecution and financial penalties.

When managing an employee’s return to work after their injury, you need to be mindful of discrimination laws that apply. If you take adverse action against an employee for having had a workplace injury, that is illegal and could land you in hot water and open you up to claims from the employee – but you are able to treat them the same as every other employee and manage their performance through robust and defensible processes.

A recent case involving TNT and a driver returning from a knee reconstruction, ruled that TNT had to reinstate the worker after they made the decision to terminate his employment due to his incapacity to safely perform the inherent requirements of his role because it was found that heavy lifting was not an inherent requirement of the role.

Legislation prohibits an employer or prospective employer from engaging in the following discriminatory conduct relating to a worker pursuing a claim for compensation or for notifying an employer or WorkSafe of an injury under this legislation:

  • dismissing, or threatening to dismiss, a worker from employment
  • altering, or threatening to alter, the position of a worker to the worker’s detriment
  • treating a worker less favourably than another worker in relation to promotion or re-employment

Every case is different, as is every injury and every worker – but one thing is certain, managing injured workers requires caution and care on the part of the employer.

We recommend doing everything you can to get the process right to support your workers, increase productivity, keep your Workcover premiums down and stay within the law. It’s important that employers consider all legal risks when managing or terminating the employment injured employees.

If you find yourself needing some advice on how to manage injured workers at your workplace, please give us a call at HR Gurus, where one of our experienced and straight talking HR experts would be happy to assist.

Written by resident HR Guru Jessy Warn.

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