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Returning to work

Discrimination against an injured worker is against the law, regardless of whether the injury was sustained at work or outside the workplace. Getting back to work can also help you to recover faster and move back into a normal routine. 

For the best results, you should work out with your employer:

  • the suitable time away from work to recover 
  • a reasonable return-to-work plan
  • appropriate duties when you return.

An ‘injured worker’ includes a person with a temporary or permanent disability, physical or otherwise.

Planning your return to work

As soon as practically possible, get in touch with your employer about a plan for returning to work. Regular communication during the recovery period is essential. This process will involve setting realistic and progressive goals, in consultation with your employer and your health professional(s).

Your employer should use these discussions to put together a step-by-step and practical return-to-work plan. It could also outline how your employer will support you while you are away. 

Offer of Suitable Employment 

If you are able to work, the return-to-work plan must, by law, include an ‘Offer of Suitable Employment’. This is a written outline of the suitable duties that have been identified to support the injured worker return to work. 

Worksafe Victoria has the relevant forms and further information about developing and implementing a return-to-work plan.

Appropriate duties

When you first return, you may need to have reduced duties or assistance until you fully recover. Make sure you discuss this with your employer. It could include making reasonable adjustments to the workplace. 

Injuries at work

If you are injured at work, your employer has certain legal responsibilities under the Accident Compensation Act 1985. They must hold your position open for 12 months and help you return to:

  • your job if you are capable of doing so, or 
  • different or modified duties if you are fit for work but not able to perform your previous duties.

A return-to-work coordinator must be nominated who can assist you to prepare to return to work. If needed, your employer should also assist you with:

  • access to an occupational rehabilitation program 
  • workplace support aids or modifications. 

Safe working environments

There are some cases where an employer needs protect the health, safety or property of people associated with organisation, including the injured worker. This means that under certain circumstances they can refuse to:

  • employ an injured worker, or
  • allow an injured employee to return to work. 

Employer responsibilities

An employer has an obligation to help an employee return to work and to ensure that they are not treated unfavourably because of their injury or illness. There are also certain legal responsibilities if an employee is injured at work. Read more about the responsibilities of employers for return to work arrangements

The Small Business Fair Dismissal Code at the Fair Work Australia website also has information that could be useful. 

Complaints to the Commission

An employee can lodge a complaint of discrimination with the Commission if they believe their workplace terms and conditions discriminate against them because of a personal characteristic that is protected under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

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