Safe and sustainable return–to-work (RTW) is one of WorkCover New South Wales’s (NSW) ongoing key priorities.
There are significant costs involved for the NSW workers compensation scheme. For example, the average time off work for short term workers’ compensation claims in NSW is 37 days. A one-day improvement has the potential to save $16.5 million annually and reduce claims liability by $56 million.
Returning injured workers to work as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so promotes faster recovery, reduces the risk of long term disability and loss of workplace productivity.
During 2012-13 WorkCover NSW ran The Early Return to Work Engagement with Workplaces Program (RTW Pilot). This involved WorkCover NSW executives, work health and safety inspectors and scheme agent representatives meeting with employers to build their capability and willingness to support the early RTW of their employees.
The RTW Pilot program included three focus areas:
- medium and large businesses with the potential for significant reductions in claim frequency and cost
- medium sized businesses with injured workers not at work (premium affected by claim experience), and
- small businesses with injured workers not at work (not premium affected).
- WorkCover NSW executives met with representatives from large and medium businesses to discuss
- the impact of their businesses’ RTW performance on their experience rated premiums
- actions and barriers to the provision of RTW opportunities for injured workers, and
- practical changes businesses could make to improve their RTW performance and achieve premium savings.
WorkCover NSW inspectors and scheme agent representatives met with medium and small business representatives to discuss the opportunities of the return to work of injured workers who were re-integrating into the workforce. For premium affected businesses the impact of their RTW performance on their experience rated premiums was also discussed.
Some of the observations from the pilot program were:
- Large businesses demonstrated a genuine willingness to participate in the program. Commitment to change was enhanced by the involvement of senior executives of these organisations.
- Experience-rated premiums and reports comparing performance with others in the industry were important influencers for employers on offers of suitable employment.
- Employers appear to have low levels of understanding of their responsibilities towards injured workers and found the compensation system too complex to comprehend and navigate.
WorkCover NSW is currently considering the results of the RTW Pilot program with work underway to position the work health and safety inspectorate to undertake activities in the return to work arena.
Collaboration between inspectors and scheme agent case managers will be established and will be an effective and important factor for future engagement with employers and interventions.
For more information on The Early Return to Work Engagement with Workplaces Program visit WorkCover NSW.