An injured workers guide to injury management

Injury management is the planned safe and long term return to work of an injured worker.

As part of your workers compensation claim you will be referred to a rehabilitation provider who will assist you with your return to work.

You, your treating doctor, the insurance company and your employer are required by the Workers Compensation Legislation to co-operate and participate in injury management to return you safely to work. Both you and your employer have responsibilities and rights in relation to injury management and your return to work.

Obligations of the employer

An employer must:

  • Attend to the injured worker as soon as possible.
  • Notify the insurance company of the injury within 48 hours.
  • Provide the insurance company with details of the injuries and circumstances of the injury.
  • Co-operate and participate with the insurance company to develop an injury management plan.
  • Implement and monitor a return to work plan for the injured work.

Obligations of an injured worker

An injured worker must:

  • Must accept suitable duties if offered by the employer.
  • Must comply with the injury management plan and return to work plan in good faith.
  • If you fail to accept an offer of suitable duties or fail to comply with the reasonable return to work plan than the insurer may stop any weekly benefits you are receiving.

The role of the treating medical practitioner

The primary role of your medical practitioner in the workers’ compensation system as the “nominated treating doctor” is to oversee your medical management and your recovery from injury. The insurer cannot tell your doctor what treatment is to be provided. The insurer cannot tell you which doctor you need to consult. These matters are solely up to you and your doctor. The insurer can only decide whether or not they will pay for such treatment. The insurer is required to pay for all reasonable and necessary treatment that is related to your injury.

The nominated treating doctor is required to provide a Medical Certificate that
accurately reflects your level of fitness for work based on the doctor’s clinical
opinion. That opinion is for the doctor to determine based on his clinical judgment of the injuries you have sustained.

The medical certificate must outline the hours you are able to work per week and what physical restrictions if any should be placed on your employment. This is known as suitable employment. Suitable employment may be:

  • A reduction of hours only
  • A restriction on the physical type of work you can perform
  • A restriction on your ability to travel or
  • It may be a combination of the above.

Suitable duties are defined in the Workers Compensation Legislation as taking into account the following:

  • Your capabilities as listed on your medical certificate.
  • Your age, education and work skills.
  • Where you live.
  • The duties must be useful to your employer’s trade or business.
  • The duties must comply with the Injury Management Plan.
  • The duties must not be demeaning or token employment.

Must an employer always provide suitable duties to an injured worker?

Under the Workers Compensation Legislation an employer is required to provide suitable duties. In practice however this does not always occur. The reality is that an employer must only provide suitable duties if it is reasonable for the employer to be able to do so. For example, if the employer is a construction company and has no light suitable work then they will not be forced to create a job which does not exist. This is despite the Workers Compensation Legislation requiring an employer to assist with return to work.

An employer does not need to provide an injured worker with any suitable duties if the injured worker voluntarily resigns or their employer is terminated for reasons other than the injury.

What happens if you fail to undertake suitable duties offered to you?

If you have a medical certificate which certifies you are able to return to work on suitable duties and you fail to do so the insurer will suspend you weekly payments.

If there is a dispute about what type of work is suitable you can approach the Workers Compensation Commission to list the matter for a telephone conference to discuss such a dispute.

Should you require any further assistance with respect to workers compensation or injury management please contact us.

About Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling, Founder of Garling & Co is a NSW Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law. He specialises in compensation law and has acted on behalf of thousands of injured people in work accidents, motor vehicle accidents and negligence cases over the last 20 years.

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