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Providing suitable employment

For: Employers and managers

Providing suitable employment is an important step in the return to work process and is your responsibility, as the employer.

Under section 40 of the SRC Act, rehabilitation authorities (employers) are required to take all reasonable steps to provide suitable employment for employees who are undertaking or have completed a rehabilitation program.

Benefits of finding suitable duties

Suitable duties can significantly reduce:

  • the employee’s incapacity
  • duration of their illness or injury
  • associated costs of their claims.

Employees who are given suitable duties when they are returning to work are more likely to be able to sustain their return and continue working.

Finding suitable employment

When identifying suitable employment, you need to consider factors relevant to the employee and to your organisation.

As part of providing suitable employment, you will generally:

  • consult with the employee to understand their individual circumstances and to ensure you engage them fully in the process
  • consult with the treating medical practitioner on the employee’s capacity and any restrictions
  • consider any reasonable adjustments requested by the employee to support their return to work.

This may involve modifying the employee's duties, providing them with alternative duties or enabling a graduated return to work.

Influence of employer and employment status

Your organisation type and the employee’s employment status impact what options are available.

Australian Government agency or authority

  • For ongoing employees of an Australian Government agency or authority, suitable employment is any employment within the Commonwealth.
  • For separated employees of the Commonwealth, suitable employment is any employment, including self-employment.

Self-insured licensee

  • For permanent employees of a self-insured licensee, suitable employment is any employment within the licensed corporation or organisation.
  • For separated employees of a self-insured licensee, suitable employment is any employment, including self-employment.

Employee suitability

The employee must be suited to the work, taking into account:

  • the employee’s age, experience, training, language and other skills
  • the employee’s suitability for rehabilitation or vocational retraining
  • the location of the employment opportunity
  • any other relevant matters.

Other relevant matters that may be taken into account include the employee’s capacity for work, medical restrictions or considerations, and reasonable adjustments required to support a safe and durable return to work.

Work group and location

Ideally, the employee returns to the same work group and carries out duties within their capacity, in line with their treating practitioner’s advice about their abilities and medical restrictions.

When working out which duties may be suitable for an employee returning to work, you should consider these questions:

Same Employer

  • Can the employee return to your workplace in the same job? (same employer/same job)
  • If not in the same role, can they return to your workplace with some modifications to their duties or a new role? (same employer/similar or new job)

New Employer

  • If the employee cannot return to your workplace, can they return to work with a different employer in the same job? (new employer/same job)
  • If not in the same job can they return to work with a different employer with some modifications to their duties or a new role? (new employer/similar or new role)

For more information on how to identify suitable duties and support an employee to return to work, see Rehabilitation Case Manager handbook (PDF, 1.7 MB)

Options for suitable duties

Graduated return to work

A graduated return to work is when an employee returns to work on reduced hours or duties because they are not yet ready to return to their full pre-injury hours or duties.

The benefits of a graduated return to work include:

  • Allowing the employee to return to work safely and earlier than would otherwise be possible.
  • Building the employee’s physical and/or psychological ability to manage tasks. This form of rehabilitation is called work hardening or work conditioning.
  • Helping the employee maintain work habits such as getting up to attend work, interacting with co-workers, and keeping pace with changes and developments in the workplace.

A graduated return to work plan should include:

  • clearly defined goals and objectives
  • an outline of the specific duties and hours of work, and how and when it is proposed these should be upgraded
  • exercise and rest breaks
  • the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved in the program.

Ideally, the employee would return to the same work group and carry out duties within their capacity, in line with medical practitioner’s advice regarding abilities and restrictions.

Internal placement

If the employee can’t return to their pre-injury duties, there might be an opportunity elsewhere in your organisation.

Internal placement may be on a temporary or permanent basis to return the worker quickly and safely.

Work trial

If suitable duties are not available within your organisation, a rehabilitation case manager may negotiate a work trial agreement with another agency or alternative employment.

Employees on a work trial may continue to be paid by your organisation, pending permanent placement.

The benefits of a work trial include:

  • Rebuilding work skills, self-confidence and establishing work routines following a long absence from the workforce or sustaining a work-related injury.
  • Work hardening – improving tolerance to physical or psychological work to allow a return to pre-injury work.
  • Learning alternative work skills.
  • Creating a working relationship with a potential new employer if a return to a pre-injury workplace is not possible.

Download the Work Trial Agreement form (PDF, 87.8 KB).

Permanent redeployment

Where all other options have been explored and the employee is deemed permanently medically unable to return to their pre-injury employer, the rehabilitation case manager considers if permanent redeployment to a new employer is suitable.

When this happens, the following options should be considered, in the order shown:

  1. same job and new employer
  2. similar job and new employer
  3. new job and new employer.

When the return to work goal is to find work with a new employer, the rehabilitation case manager should develop a return to work plan in consultation with an approved rehabilitation provider and the employee’s medical practitioner.

Activities that might support a successful redeployment include:

  • transferable skills analysis
  • vocational assessment
  • work trial
  • vocational counselling
  • job seeking skills such as writing a resume, submitting a job application, interview skills and being accountable
  • retraining, only if it is proved to be the most cost-effective way of getting the employee back to work.

If the employee is permanently redeployed, the new employer becomes responsible for the employee’s rehabilitation. However, the previous employer remains the liable authority and incurs costs for the life of the claim.

More information

For more information on the returning to work process and responsibilities, see:

Page last reviewed: 08 December 2021

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 17 Jun 2024