Injury management is the process of managing your return to work, and it should start as soon as possible after your injury, because this improves your chances of a safe and durable recovery and return to work. You don’t have to be fully recovered or to have finished medical treatment before you can go back to work.
The role of an injury management co-ordinator (IMC)
If your injury or illness results in you having 5 days or more of total or partial incapacity, an IMC will be appointed to co-ordinate and oversee your treatment, rehabilitation and return to work.
You should be notified if an IMC is appointed. The IMC provides a single contact for everyone involved in the injury management process. The following people may be included in your injury management:
- your primary treating doctor
- a return to work co-ordinator (if your workplace has more than 100 workers), who can provide you with support
- a workplace rehabilitation provider, who provides specific workplace rehabilitation services such as assessing your functional capacity, rehabilitation counselling, and advice about job modification.
Keeping your job open
Your employer must keep your job available for you to return to for 12 months, unless:
- there is medical evidence that it is highly unlikely you will be able to do your pre-injury job, or
- your pre-injury job is no longer required.
If your employer decides to terminate your employment for either of these reasons, they must tell you and their insurer in writing of the reasons.
Terminating your employment does not necessarily mean the employer’s obligations to you for injury management and compensation cease.
Return to work plans and injury management plans
There are two types of plans for managing a significant workplace injury: return to work plans and injury management plans.
The type of plan used depends on the time you are (or are likely to be) incapacitated for work:
- a return to work plan is a simple plan for co-ordinating and managing your treatment, rehabilitation and return to work
- an injury management plan is a more comprehensive plan than a return to work plan.
Both plans make sure there is a consistent and agreed understanding of what is going to happen, and what to expect during the injury management process.
Plans should be signed by all parties where possible and must be realistic, and tailored to your individual circumstances.
Suitable alternative duties
If you can’t return to your pre-injury job, your employer must provide suitable alternative duties.
These are duties:
- that you are suited to, and are not demeaning or token duties
- take into account the nature of your incapacity and your pre-injury employment and skills
- take into account medical advice or restrictions on what you can and can’t do
- fit in with your return to work plan or injury management plan.
Your employer must consult with you and your treating doctor to decide on what alternative duties to give you.
If it’s unreasonable or impracticable for your employer to provide suitable alternative duties, they must provide you with their reasons in writing.
Helping yourself get back to work
- Seek advice and explanations about your injury so you can be confident about self managing your recovery.
- Be an active participant in return to work processes.
- Work with your employer to identify suitable duties.
- Work within the restrictions provided by your doctor so you don't risk re-injury.
- Make sure you raise any issues or concerns immediately.
Your health and wellbeing are actually improved if you can stay at work during your recovery, or if you can return to work as soon as possible:
- a complete recovery is not often achieved before return to work
- the longer you are away from work, the less chance you have of ever returning
- work is generally good for your health and wellbeing.
Disputes about injury management
If there is a dispute over injury management, your employer must inform your injury management co-ordinator, who must try to resolve the dispute through informal mediation.
If the dispute is not resolved this way, then any of the parties can refer it to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal.