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Return to work refers to helping injured workers with their recovery and getting back to work. Legislation in this area provides for the safe and durable return to work of an injured worker as early as possible allowing for their injury.

Latest news

September 2019 marked the launch of the landmark National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030 that sets an ambitious 10-year action plan to improve return to work outcomes for workers across Australia.

National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030, download a copy of the strategy

Return to work programs

The return to work of an injured worker involves the employer and worker—and depending on the legislation in each jurisdiction and the severity of the injury—it may also involve workplace rehabilitation coordinators and providers, medical and other health professionals as well as the insurer.

The successful return to work of a worker following an injury usually involves four factors:

  • early, positive contact from the worker’s supervisor or manager
  • an effective workplace rehabilitation program
  • effective and supportive claims management practices
  • cooperation, consultation and coordination between stakeholders.

National Return to Work Survey 

The National Return to Work Survey is conducted biennially, with the last survey carried out in mid-2018. All Australian jurisdictions (except for South Australia) took part.

Each time the National Return to Work Survey is run, two reports are produced as well as occasional topic reports.

The Headline Measures Report maintains the time series (back to 1998) for two key measures previously reported by the Return to Work Monitor:

  • Returned to Work Rate
  • Current Return to Work Rate.

The more comprehensive Full Summary Report compares the return to work experience and outcomes of injured workers of premium payers and self-insurers against a number of variables, including age, sex, workplace rehabilitation and employer support.

View the full summary report or the Headline Measures Report.

Return to work in psychological claims and Return to work: A comparison of psychological and physical injury claims explore factors that influence return to work using data from the 2013 and 2014 National Return to Work Survey.​

Return to Work case studies

We have published five case studies that exemplify organisational systems and practices for early intervention and return to work.

The organisations who took part in this project were selected from finalists and winners of state and territory return to work awards.  

A key theme across all case studies is that good WHS and good return to work practices are intrinsically linked. The organisations interviewed expressed the belief that well-run businesses treat prevention, early intervention and return to work as a continuum.

A variety of organisations have been selected to ensure the case studies represent a diversity of practices and organisation types.

  • Catholic Homes
  • Pernod Ricard Winemakers
  • Toowoomba Council
  • Union Hydraulics
  • Williams Seafoods

Further advice

SWA is not a workers’ compensation authority and cannot advise you on workers’ compensation insurance, claims or return to work programs. If you need help, please contact your relevant workers’ compensation authority. 

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