National Return to Work Strategy

Guide to the National Return to Work Strategy 

The National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030 (the Strategy) was developed through the Safe Work Australia tripartite governance arrangements. Safe Work Australia’s Strategic Issues Group on Workers’ Compensation (SIG-Workers’ Compensation) oversaw the Strategy’s development and provided advice to Safe Work Australia Members. A Strategy Working Group consisting of senior policy officers nominated by SIG-Workers’ Compensation was also established to provide input and advice on the Strategy at critical points. The Strategy was endorsed by work health and safety ministers and Safe Work Australia (SWA) Members in 2019.

The aim of the Strategy is to minimise the impact of work-related injury and illness to help injured workers have a timely, safe and durable return to work. The Strategy creates a framework to develop research and national policies on return to work to facilitate shared insights and guide future policies in Australia.  

‘Return to work’ is about helping workers get back to work or stay at work while they recover from their work-related injury or illness. It is a complex process in which many factors at the individual, organisational and system levels interact to influence a worker’s recovery, absence from work and the durability of their return to work. A positive return to work involves all systems working well together.

10 guiding principles support the Strategy’s strategic outcomes and identify the characteristics of a positive return to work. These principles underpin and cut across the practice of all stakeholders, and govern behaviours, policies and practices at the individual, organisational and system levels. 


Action areas under the Strategy

To direct the work within the Strategy, Safe Work Australia identified the following 5 action areas to inform the research and projects developed under the Strategy:

Who is supported by the Strategy 

The Strategy has been designed to support the future work of organisations and people who influence work and workplaces including:

  • policy makers
  • workers’ compensation authorities
  • employers
  • union and industry groups
  • insurers 
  • claims management organisations 
  • treating health practitioners 
  • workplace rehabilitation providers, and
  • other worker advocates. 

Measuring and reporting progress 

To measure the progress and success of the strategy’s outcomes, the Measurement Framework was developed. 

Safe Work Australia has agreed to undertake the following reports to monitor and measure progress under the Strategy in line with the Measurement Framework: