Supporting employees in returning to work with a workplace rehabilitation program

By Zoe Verazzi


Returning to work can be difficult for employees who have been absent from the workplace due to injury or illness.

The transition itself is often stressful, but many people also face challenges with mental health from the stigma related to their condition or absence.

Some employees need to build their fitness for work again, as even a few weeks off can significantly reduce someone’s working strength. Workers are often required to participate in alternate duties until their work capacity is improved, sometimes having to change jobs or employers if they cannot return to their pre-injury roles.

Employees must also navigate the daunting and confusing systems associated with back-to-work reintegration—systems that many employers don’t have much experience in either.

This is where workplace rehabilitation programs can help.

Returning to work with the support of a team

Workplace rehabilitation helps injured employees return to work in a meaningful capacity. In particular, it can assist employees with a return to work when there is a significant or complex injury, a long recovery timeframe, workplace conflict, communication breakdown, or suitable duties need to be identified where employees simply cannot return to their pre-injury role.

Workplace rehabilitation providers can assist with workplace assessments, evaluate the employee’s role, and design return-to-work plans.

The program can help create a link between employees, employers, and treatment providers to tailor treatment plans that meet the physical job demands. In addition, it keeps employees engaged in a meaningful program while away from work and ensures they are not alienated from the workplace during their absence.

The goal is to gradually return employees to the workplace in a safe and medically guided manner while improving communication between all parties—employees, employers and insurers.

Personalised return-to-work plans help employees return to work faster

Return-to-work plans are an essential part of the workplace rehabilitation process.

Workplace rehabilitation providers collect information about the employee’s pre-injury duties and hours while performing a workplace assessment. In addition, providers collect information from the employer such as available and suitable responsibilities as well as information from the treating medical practitioner about the employee’s current working capacity and the predicted recovery timeframes. With all this data, they can work to formulate an effective return-to-work plan.

Meetings with clients that cannot be done in person (as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic) are done using teleconferencing technology such as video calling—allowing for continued face-to-face contact with clients and permitting complete worksite assessments, workplace reviews, and medical case conferences in order to discuss and design effective return-to-work plans.

Workplace assessments clearly outline the physical demands of the employee’s pre-injury role at the workplace. These assessments can also identify possible modified or alternate duties.

Return-to-work plans are agreed to by all parties and are monitored and regularly reviewed by the workplace rehabilitation provider. Once medically approved, employees can participate in reduced hours and modified or alternate duties if the option is available at the workplace—meaning that employees can stay in touch with their colleagues and return to work earlier, without having to wait for a full recovery.

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