A return to work co-ordinator (RTWC) is someone who provides an injured worker with workplace-based support and assistance.
RTWCs help injured workers achieve the best possible return to work outcome through their intimate knowledge and understanding of the various jobs, processes, people and management systems within the workplace.
Section 143D of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 requires employers with more than 100 workers to appoint a RTWC.
Where an injured worker has suffered a significant injury (that is, is likely to be totally or partially incapacitated for more than 5 working days) employers must assign them to the appointed RTWC.
Employers with less than 100 workers are also encouraged to consider the benefits of appointing and training an existing worker to undertake this valuable role.
Appointing a RTWC
In most workplaces, the person appointed to the role of a RTWC will be an existing worker and the RTWC’s role will form part of, and complement, their existing duties.
Although not essential, the duties of a RTWC indicate that someone not in a direct management role would be better placed to perform the role. This ensures that the RTWC is seen as independent of management.
Having another worker perform the duties of a RTWC also has the benefit of helping others in the workplace understand the issues surrounding workplace injuries and returning injured workers back to work.
Outsourcing the role of the RTWC
The intent of the Act is for a RTWC to be workplace based. While the role may be outsourced, it is strongly recommended that an in-house co-ordinator is appointed as in most cases they will have well-established working relationships with workers as well as a good understanding of the workplace.
How many RTWCs to appoint
The number of RTWCs appointed is at the discretion of the employer. Factors to consider may include:
- case load
- number and remoteness of worksites
- cover for RTWCs during absences.
Functions of the RTWC
The RTWC may be responsible for some or all of the following functions:
- assisting in developing and implementing timely return to work plans and injury management plans
- assisting in identifying suitable and meaningful duties
- assisting the injured worker to carry out their designated duties in a safe and appropriate manner
- providing the injured worker with moral support in the form of reassurance and encouragement in their treatment and return to work
- monitoring the injured worker’s progress
- actively promoting injury management and return to work processes and positively influencing worker perceptions
- providing input into workplace health and safety, and preparing and maintaining injury management programs, such as developing an injury management policy and associated processes
- training and educating line managers, supervisors and workers about injury management and return to work processes
- assisting in regular monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of workplace injury management programs against outcome
- collating and maintaining relevant documentation.
Providing effective communication
Effective and regular communication is critical to ensuring that injured workers are fully supported on their return to work. In most cases, the RTWC will be required to communicate with key parties by:
- meeting regularly with involved parties, including the primary treating medical practitioner to provide updates and to discuss the progress of the injured worker
- liaising with the injury management co-ordinator about the need for an workplace rehabilitation provider
- providing information on and explaining the injury management and return to work process to the injured worker
- maintaining regular contact with the injured worker and discussing any issues they may have and their suitability to return to work
- encouraging and fostering a good relationship and effective communication between the injured worker, the employer and insurer.
Knowledge and skills required for a RTWC
It would be expected that a RTWC would be someone with:
- expert knowledge of the workplace, including jobs, processes, people and management systems
- excellent written and verbal communication skills, including negotiation and interpersonal skills, and the ability to deal with conflict and confronting situations
- demonstrated ability to solve problems and make decisions
- well developed organisational and time management skills
- ability to manage and disseminate information effectively to all relevant parties
- knowledge of (or ability to acquire knowledge of) the Act and associated regulations and guidelines
- experience in (or the ability to acquire knowledge and skills in) injury management and return to work, including case and case load management skills
- ability to identify when workplace rehabilitation provider services are required.
Personal attributes of a good RTWC
A good RTWC is someone who:
- has a genuine desire to be a RTWC
- is respected and supported by both staff and managers
- is familiar with and has access to all areas of the workplace
- has (or is able to develop) rapport with workers and whose advice is generally sought after and well regarded
- can be sensitive and empathetic to workers’ needs
- is trustworthy and can be relied upon to maintain confidentiality at all times
- is proactive in their approach to work
- is objective and can weigh up the needs of both the worker and the workplace
- has sufficient authority to make decisions and to ensure activities detailed in return to work plans and injury management plans are followed
- has the ability to recognise when they require assistance or do not have the necessary knowledge to achieve an outcome; for example seeking assistance from an injury management co-ordinator.
Training for RTWCs
Appointed RTWCs are strongly encouraged to complete the following four units of competencies recognised within the Australian Qualifications Framework:
- FNSPIM425 Facilitate recovery and return to life
- FNSPIM419 Maintain relationships with personal injury clients
- PSPINM006 Develop return to work plans
- PSPINM014 Contribute to a quality injury management system.
Completing these units will provide individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively fulfil the role of a RTWC and may also be used as recognition towards completion of the injury management co-ordinator qualification.
To find a registered training organisation and further unit information, enter any of the above unit codes at Training.gov.au (external link).
Registering as a RTWC
If you are a RTWC you can register with WorkCover Tasmania to be:
- kept up to date on matters affecting RTWCs
- notified of upcoming forums and opportunities to meet other RTWCs
- provided with new injury management publications and tools.