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Work Accidents: Returning to Work After an Injury

Work Accident: Returning to Work After an Injury

Article by Injury Lawyer, Tyla Leo

21 September 2021

When Should I return to Work after a Work Injury?

Often, an employer is eager to place an injured worker, back to work. One of the many questions lawyers are asked by someone who has been injured at work is: When should I return to work, after a work injury?

The answer is not always simple. There are various factors that should be considered. Returning to work plays an important role in recovering from your injuries in more ways than one.

Workers compensation insurers are obligated to facilitate the return of injured workers, back to work, where possible.

While it may be ideal to return to work with the employer you were working for at the time of your injury, that is not always possible. If you are not able to do this, insurers may try to connect you with a host employer or attempt to find other suitable employment for you.


How do I make sure I Return to Work Safely?

If you feel like you are ready to return to work, the first person to talk with is your trusted Doctor. Your healthcare professional should provide you with advice on whether you are ready to return to work safely.

Even if your employer or their insurer is trying to facilitate your return to work, you need to ensure that your health professionals agree.


Can I start back at Work Gradually?

You may not be ready to go straight back into your full duties, pre-work injury. You may be able to return to work on restricted, alternative, or light duties. This is known as a graduated return to work program.

Participating in a graduated return to work program demonstrates that you are attempting to transition back into your job. A graduated program is usually approved by your doctor or healthcare professional. These programs usually start with shorter days and lighter duties, eg. you may start 3 days a week at 3 hours per day and gradually increase until you are back doing your pre-injury work hours.

You have no obligation to return to your full duties or hours if you are not able to do so. Rushing back to work when you are not properly recovered is a sure-fire way to worsen your condition/s or even potentially re-injure yourself.


What is a Duty to mitigate my Loss?

As an injured worker, you have what the legal world calls, a duty to mitigate your loss.

This means you must take reasonable steps to reduce the loss that you suffer arising from an injury.

Under Section 232 of the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 an injured worker must participate in rehabilitation to mitigate their loss. It also means that injured workers should participate in a return-to-work program of some description, where possible.

If you are unable to return to your previous employment, you are obligated to make reasonable attempts to re-enter the workforce in another occupation and retrain to enter an alternate occupation, if you are able to do so.


Should I Push through the Pain?

While returning to work is the ultimate goal for every injured worker, in some cases a worker is unable to return to work due to several factors including their injuries, ongoing symptoms (both physical and psychological) age, experience, and training.

Although an injured worker has a duty to mitigate their loss, they are not required to return to work in circumstances where they must put up with unreasonable increases in pain or symptoms (physical or psychological). If you return to work and find that you are struggling to cope or experience an exacerbation in your symptoms, the first point of call is to speak with your GP or healthcare professional.

An injured worker is required to mitigate their loss and do what is reasonable. It may not be reasonable to return to work and suffer through the pain, particularly if this may prevent a full recovery. An injured worker must act under the advice of their doctor and only do what is reasonable in the circumstances.


What do I do once my Statutory Workers Compensation is finished?

A lot of injured people worry about their options once their statutory worker’s compensation is finished. The first thing to do is investigate if you are able to find a job with another employer or to try and retrain for another profession. You should also seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer who works in personal injury law.

If you are unable to return to work due to your ongoing injuries and symptoms, there are several options you can look at:

  • Check with your superannuation fund to see if you hold income protection insurance.
  • Check with your superannuation fund to see if you hold total and permanent disability insurance.
  • Contact Centrelink to register for disability or other similar benefits.

Seek Legal Advice

Returning to work is something you should discuss with an experienced lawyer who works in personal injury law.

While returning to work is a positive step that has many benefits for your recovery, it should not compromise your recovery.

It is important that you return to work safely and that everyone is aware of what their obligations are.


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