Rehabilitation information for employers
Rehabilitation is about achieving an early and durable recovery at and return to work following an injury or illness.
The rehabilitation authority (who is usually the employer) is responsible for managing the rehabilitation and return to work of an employee with a work-related injury or illness, under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act).
Rehabilitation authorities must also comply with the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities Instrument 2019 (PDF, 235.4 KB).
These requirements include:
- effectively managing rehabilitation
- consulting with key stakeholders
- ensuring rehabilitation case managers are appropriately skilled and capable
- monitoring workplace rehabilitation provider services
- monitoring rehabilitation functions and performance.
For more information on the changes in the 2019 Guidelines, see the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities information sheet (PDF, 199.9 KB).
We recommend you develop and maintain a rehabilitation management system to help meet your legislative obligations and provide effective rehabilitation services to your employees.
Why return to work is good for everyone
Good work is good for our mental and physical health and wellbeing. Good work can also help in recovery from injury and illness.
If away from the workplace for a significant period, an injured or unwell employee may:
- become isolated and depressed
- suffer adverse socioeconomic consequences
- become unemployable in the long term
- experience family disruption, loss of self-esteem and quality of life
- have higher rates of many health conditions and an increased risk of death.
The importance of responding early
The longer someone is off work, the less likely they are to return. Work absence tends to perpetuate itself—if the person is off work for:
- 20 days—the chance of ever getting back to work is 70 per cent
- 45 days—the chance of ever getting back to work is 50 per cent
- 70 days—the chance of ever getting back to work is 35 per cent.
Therefore, providing early support to employees with an injury or illness to enable their recovery and return to work is critical. Employers have a central role in providing this support and responding quickly.
It’s important for an employee with an injury or illness to have a timeframe for their rehabilitation and recovery – employees are three times more likely to return to work if they are given a return date by their medical practitioner.
Rehabilitation information for employers
Delegating rehabilitation functions
The rehabilitation authority (who is usually the employer) can delegate all or any of its functions and powers under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 to a specific officer or employee. This must be done in writing.
If you are a self-insured licensee, the contracted claims manager or reviewer named in your licence does not have authority to make or reconsider any rehabilitation determination. Those powers can only be exercised by your CEO or managing director, or an officer or employee that they have delegated that power to.
Starting rehabilitation before there is a determination
Rehabilitation should start as soon as possible and regardless of the employee’s intention to lodge a claim under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act).
Intervening early when an employee is injured or ill is not about liability – it is about returning an employee to work and to health.
Once you have been made aware of an employee’s injury you may provide a rehabilitation assessment and program under either:
- the SRC Act
- your organisation’s rehabilitation or early intervention policy and procedures.
Rehabilitation costs before liability is determined
Where a claim has been lodged by an employee, any rehabilitation costs incurred before determination of liability will be payable by Comcare.
Pre-liability rehabilitation costs may include:
- rehabilitation assessment and examination
- delivery of any rehabilitation program.
When liability is denied by Comcare
If Comcare denies liability for a claim, the rehabilitation authority can no longer arrange a rehabilitation assessment or provide a rehabilitation program under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act). For more information, see assessing a claim.
You may still provide rehabilitation to the employee according to your organisation’s rehabilitation policy and procedures.
When the decision to deny liability for the claim is under review (under reconsideration or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process), you should continue to rehabilitate your employee according to your internal rehabilitation policy and procedures.
Measuring rehabilitation performance
An important part of a rehabilitation management system is the ability to monitor performance against defined objectives and targets.
Measuring outcomes lets you know how you are tracking, and helps you adjust and influence behaviour. Some objectives and measures you can implement are:
Helping your people to get back to work
- Average time from date of injury to first rehabilitation action.
- Percentage of injured employees with a rehabilitation program in place if receiving incapacity payments.
Successfully getting your people back to work
- Income continuance rates at one month, 13 weeks, 26 weeks and 12 months.
- Outcome of rehabilitation—percentage of closed rehabilitation programs with no return to work, partial return to work and full return to work.
Getting good service from your workplace rehabilitation providers
- Average cost of rehabilitation per case—can be broken down into physical versus psychological injury.
- Percentage of injured employees who remain in employment at 13- and 26-weeks following rehabilitation program closure.
Your managers and executive leaders are supporting rehabilitation in your organisation
- Percentage of cases where suitable duties have been found within the organisation.
- Percentage of cases where a rehabilitation goal has changed due to a lack of suitable duties.
- Compliance with the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities is confirmed.
- The rehabilitation management system is tested through review and is consistent with the rehabilitation authority’s performance objectives.
Relevant sections of the SRC Act
Part III of the Safety Rehabilitation Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) is focused on rehabilitation.
The sections of the SRC Act that are relevant to providing rehabilitation include:
- Approval of rehabilitation providers—section 34 – provides Comcare with the authority to approve rehabilitation providers.
- Assessment of capability of undertaking rehabilitation program—section 36 – provides the rehabilitation authority with the power to arrange a rehabilitation assessment.
- Provision of rehabilitation programs—section 37 – provides a rehabilitation authority with the power to make a determination and arrangement for a rehabilitation program.
- Review of certain determinations by Comcare—section 38 – provides Comcare with the authority to review a determination made by the rehabilitation authority. For self-insured licensees, this decision is reviewed by an independent person who was not involved with the original decision
- Duty to provide suitable employment—section 40 – requires the rehabilitation authority to take all reasonable steps to provide the employee with suitable employment.
- Requirement to comply with rehabilitation guidelines—section 41 – allows Comcare to issue rehabilitation guidelines to rehabilitation authorities. Rehabilitation authorities must comply with these guidelines.
For more information, see Your responsibilities as an employer.
Defence force exemptions from legislation
The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2019 do not apply to members of the defence force injured on or after 1 July 2004. Members injured after this date are covered by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRC Act) administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.
Under the MRC Act, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and service chiefs can delegate all or any of their functions and powers to a specific officer or employee.
The liable employer
The liable employer is the employer at the time of the work-related injury or illness.
The liable employer is responsible for costs associated with the employee’s time off work (incapacity), treatment and rehabilitation costs for the life of the claim.
Generally, the liable employer is also the rehabilitation authority. However, when an employee takes up employment with a new employer, the responsibility for rehabilitation sometimes changes and the liable employer is no longer the rehabilitation authority.
Rehabilitation authority – employee of an Australian Government agency or statutory authority
|Status of employee||Rehabilitation authority|
|Currently employed by an Australian Government agency or statutory authority||The Australian Government agency or statutory authority|
|Moves from one Australian Government employer to another||The new employer becomes the rehabilitation authority and is responsible for the management of the employee’s rehabilitation. However, the liability is retained by the original Australian Government employer.|
|Temporarily transferred to another Australian Government employer (for example, on a work trial where the employee is paid by the new employer)||The role of the rehabilitation authority transfers to the new employer. This role reverts to the substantive employer at the end of the employee's temporary transfer|
|Leaves an Australian Government employer by any means (such as redundancy, resignation or involuntary separation) and takes up employment with another Australian Government employer||The new employer becomes the employee’s rehabilitation authority.|
|An ex-Australian Government employee who takes up employment with a private sector company||The last Australian Government employer remains the employee’s rehabilitation authority for the life of their claim.|
Rehabilitation authority - employee of a self-insured licensee
|Status of employee||Rehabilitation authority|
|Currently employed by a self-insured licensee||The current employer|
|Leaves employment of the licensee (liable authority) and takes up employment with an Australian Government employer||Moves to the Australian Government employer|
|Leaves employment of the licensee (liable authority) and takes up employment with another licensee||Moves to the new licensee|
|Leaves employment of the licensee (liable authority) and takes up employment with a private sector employer (other than a licensee)||Retained as the last scheme employer (the licensee)|
- Rehabilitation case manager core capabilities (PDF, 133.6 KB) – defines the capabilities required of an effective rehabilitation case manager and provides resources.
- Middle manager and supervisor core capabilities (PDF, 109.6 KB) – defines the capabilities required of a supervisor to effectively support recovery at work following an injury.
- Claims manager core capabilities (PDF, 119.8 KB) – defines the capabilities required of a claims manager to work effectively with a rehabilitation case manager to coordinate an employee's rehabilitation and return to work.
Rehabilitation management systems
- Rehabilitation Management Systems information sheet (PDF, 114.8 KB)
- Rehabilitation Management System audit workbook (PDF, 321.2 KB)
Return to work
- Steps in the return to work process
- Return to Work factsheet (PDF, 591.2 KB) – your role as employer in the return to work process, strategies you can use to aid successful recovery and return to work.
- Barriers to Return to Work literature review (PDF, 167.8 KB) – summarises current literature on the barriers to return to work, including injury characteristics, individual perceptions and workplace relationships.
- Working for Recovery: Suitable Employment for Return to Work Following Psychological Injury guide (PDF, 1.9 MB) – additional information and guidance to assist employees with a psychological injury or mental ill health return to suitable employment.
- First Steps Back: Suitable Employment guide for rehabilitation case managers (PDF, 2.7 MB) – guidance on return to work systems, injured employee capacity, return to work planning, identifying suitable duties, and sustaining an employee's return to work.
- Work Trials: A guide for rehabilitation case managers (PDF, 148.1 KB) – step by step instructions on how to place an injured employee with a host employer for a work trial.
- Back to Work, Back to Team Infographic poster (PDF, 181.0 KB)
- Back to Work, Back to Team Infographic fillable poster (PDF, 182.6 KB)
- Intervene early and know the warning signs
- First to Action: Early Intervention to Support Psychological Health and Wellbeing guide (PDF, 2.1 MB) – provides guidance to help managers recognise the warning signs of psychological injury and take early action.
- Early Intervention Report (PDF, 1.2 MB) – reviews the effectiveness and cost benefit of early intervention within the Comcare scheme.
- Leadership Commitment - Early Rehabilitation Assistance to Employees booklet (PDF, 949.4 KB) – promotes the benefits of leadership commitment, sound policy, good communication and effective action on rehabilitation outcomes.