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Providing suitable employment

For: Employers and managers

Providing suitable duties is an important step in the return to work process and is the responsibility of the employer.

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.

Suitable duties explained

Suitable duties meet an employee's capacities, skills and experience and consider any medical limitations they have.

Providing suitable duties may involve:

  • modifying duties
  • providing alternative duties
  • a graduated return to work.

Identifying and arranging suitable duties

Ideally, an 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 restrictions.

When working out which suitable duties might suit a returning worker, consider the following possibilities:

  • same employer - same, similar or new job
  • new employer - same, similar or new job.

For more information on how to identify suitable duties and support an employee to return to work, see:

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 employees to return to work safely and earlier than would otherwise be possible.
  • Building an employee’s physical and/or psychological ability to manage tasks. This form of rehabilitation is called work hardening or work conditioning.
  • Helping an 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, an 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 an 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 the 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.

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Permanent redeployment

Where all other options have been explored and an 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:

  • same job and new employer
  • similar job and new employer
  • 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 an 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: 11 December 2019
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Date printed 08 Jul 2020