The key to an early and successful return to work lies in your employer's ability to provide you with work within your capacity.
Suitable employment increases the likelihood of you staying at work or, if you are not working, it allows you to safely return sooner than would otherwise be possible.
When establishing the duties and job which may suit you, your employer can consider the same, a similar or a new job with the same employer or a new employer.
Providing you with suitable employment may involve:
- modifying duties
- changing hours while on a return to work plan, such as graduated return to work, or
- providing alternative duties, such as through a work trial or redeployment.
Graduated return to work
A graduated return to work is when you return to work on reduced hours or duties because you are not yet medically fit to perform your full pre-injury hours or duties.
Benefits of a graduated return
- Allows you to return to work safely and earlier than would be possible if you had to wait to be fully recovered and able to perform full pre-injury hours and duties.
- Helps you build or rebuild your physical and psychological ability to manage and perform tasks. This is a form of rehabilitation and is called work conditioning or work hardening.
- Helps you maintain your work habits, such as getting up to attend work, interacting with co-workers, and keeping pace with changes and developments in the workplace.
What a program should include
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 parties involved in the program.
Ideally, you would return to the same work group and carry out duties within your capacity, in line with your medical practitioner’s advice regarding abilities and restrictions.
If you can’t return to your pre-injury duties, there may be an opportunity elsewhere in the organisation you work for. An internal placement or secondment may be offered on a temporary basis to return you to work quickly and safely.
If you can’t return to your pre-injury duties, there might be an opportunity elsewhere in your organisation.
Internal placement may be on a temporary or permanent basis to help you return to work quickly and safely.
Work trial in another workplace
If suitable duties are not available within your organisation, your rehabilitation case manager may arrange a work trial with another organisation.
The benefits of a work trial include:
- rebuilds work skills, self-confidence and establishes work routines
- work hardening to improve your tolerance to the physical, psychological and cognitive aspects of work
- gaining new work experiences, new skills and knowledge
- creates a working relationship with a potential new employer if a return to your pre-injury workplace is not possible.
Redeployment to a new employer may be an option if you are permanently medically unable to return to work with your pre-injury employer.
When this happens, the same, a similar or new job with a new employer should be considered.
Activities that may support your successful redeployment include:
- transferable skills analysis
- vocational assessment
- work trial
- vocational counselling
- job seeking skills such as writing a resume, submitting job applications, interview skills
For more information, see
- Return to work process for claimants
- Benefits of returning to work
- Rehabilitation programs
- Workplace rehabilitation services
- Working for Recovery: Suitable Employment for Return to Work Following Psychological Injury guide (PDF, 1.9 MB) includes information to help employees with a psychological injury or illness return to work
- Providing suitable employment - information for employers.