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Safe Work Australia’s national return to work survey project

For: Claimants Employers and managers Service providers Advocates Information seekers

The National Return to Work Survey is a telephone-based survey conducted by Safe Work Australia.

Project update

The survey is conducted every two years, with the last survey conducted in 2018. The next survey will be conducted in 2021. All Australian state and territory workers’ compensation schemes participated in the 2018 survey, except for South Australia.

Safe Work Australia has also released a new national strategy to help improve return to work outcomes for Australian employees, and Comcare was involved in the development of this strategy.

Project overview

The National Return to Work Survey aims to monitor and better understand Australian injured employees’ experiences of being on workers’ compensation, their health status, time off work, return to work, and the support and rehabilitation they received.

The survey involves interviewing employees from premium paying government agencies and self-insured licensees within the Comcare scheme.

As the National Return to Work Survey is conducted every two years, work would normally commence in early 2020. However, a decision was made on 27 March 2020 by Safe Work Australia members across the jurisdiction to delay the survey by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey has been used to support our Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2021-22 priorities and to inform our rehabilitation and return to work strategies.

Project participants

Project lead

  • Safe Work Australia

Other organisations involved

  • Monash University
  • State and territory workers’ compensation schemes
  • The Social Research Centre (external provider).

Findings and reports


Why this research is important

This research project is part of our Research Plan Towards 2022 and supports our purpose to foster work participation and recovery.

Finding ways to help injured and ill employees return to work as soon as it is safe to do so, has benefits for both the employee and the employer.

We know good work supports people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

We also know that being off work for extended periods can have serious long-term effects including isolation and depression. Experience shows that the longer someone is off work, the less likely they are to return to work.

More information

For more information on this research project, contact research@comcare.gov.au.

Page last reviewed: 02 October 2020
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GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 24 Sep 2021