Developing your worker's plan
Tailored planning is essential to a successful work outcome for your and your worker.
Starting the recover at work process as soon as you are notified that your worker has a workplace injury or illness can assist your worker to recover sooner.
Developing the plan
Recover at work involves adjusting your worker’s duties to match their capacity for work.
It can be a gradual process where your worker returns to modified duties or reduced hours to accommodate the injury. Your worker’s recover at work plan should focus on what your worker can do rather than what they cannot.
As the employer, your role in the support team is to identify suitable tasks and duties, while the doctor’s role is to identify your worker’s physical capabilities.
When developing a recover at work plan ensure you:
- give the worker the opportunity to participate in the development of the plan
- describe the plan in writing (see our website foor the example template recover at work planning tool)
- discuss with your worker who will receive a copy of the plan and what injury management information should be shared with co-workers
- provide copies of the plan to the worker and the doctor
- provide a copy of any changes made to the plan to the worker in writing.
It is good practice to:
- keep a copy of the plan for yourself and give copies to the worker’s line manager and your insurer
- inform line managers and co-workers (if required) of the plan’s content
- monitor your worker’s progress against the plan
- update the plan when the worker’s medical restrictions change or if there is a change in the workplace that impacts the plan.
Including your worker
Allowing your worker to have a say encourages commitment to the recover at work plan and improves the likelihood of its success.
Listen to your worker’s suggestions and concerns. Incorporate their input wherever possible while being clear about the options available.
If you and the worker are unable to agree to the plan, discuss the issue with your insurer and consider organising a case conference with the worker and the doctor.
Where a worker refuses to participate in a recover at work plan it is appropriate to seek assistance from your insurer.
What to include in the plan
A template is available from the website or you can develop your own. The plan should include the following information:
- Recover at work goal
Your worker’s recover at work goal needs to be clear to ensure everyone is working towards a common objective. See Setting your worker’s recover at work goal on page 9 for more information.
- Your worker's diagnosis, capacity and restrictions
Include your worker’s diagnosis, capacity for work and any restrictions specified by the doctor in the NSW workers compensation certificate of capacity. If this information is unclear, contact the doctor and ask for clarification. If you are unable to speak to the doctor directly, provide your worker with a letter to give the doctor at their next appointment.
- Treatment and/or rehabilitation arrangements
Include the number, frequency and agreed times of any current and/or planned treatment or rehabilitation. Treatment appointment arrangements will be dependent on the availability of treatment providers and the individual circumstances of the worker.
- Available duties and hours to be worked
Indicate duties identified in consultation with the worker. Include any workplace modifications that may be necessary and how they are to be arranged - see Identifying suitable work options on page 9 for detailed information.
- Supervisor arrangements
You may need to nominate a supervisor to ensure the worker works within the capacity specified by the doctor. Details of these arrangements should be described within the plan.
- Review dates
Regularly monitoring the plan for progress, effectiveness and updates as your worker recovers, helps support the worker, ensures arrangements are consistent with their work capacity and facilitates the identification and implementation of adjustments as required. It is recommended that you note any review dates specified by the doctor on the NSW workers compensation certificate of capacity – see Monitoring and upgrading the plan on this page.
- Contact details
List the contact details of the support team within the plan.
Indicate either in writing or verbally the agreement between yourself and your worker about the duties identified and the plan. If agreement is verbal you must note it in the worker’s recover at work plan. There is no requirement for other parties to agree to the plan. However, it is best practice to seek agreement for the plan from others, particularly the doctor.
- Supplementary information
As the recover at work plan is used by a range of people it is helpful to include information about:
- the roles and responsibilities of people involved in the recover at work process such as supervisors, managers, return to work coordinator and co-workers
- the process for handling concerns or disputes
- the process for disclosing information
- any additional support that helps ensure a successful recovery at work.
Preparing colleagues for your worker's return
Feeling nervous or worried about returning to work is normal for a worker who has been off work for a period of time.
Appropriate encouragement and support for your worker when they are returning and/or recovering at work is important.
It is also important to make sure all staff dealing with your worker:
- know the date their colleague is coming back to work
- have a copy of the recover at work plan (where appropriate)
- are aware of their important role in supporting the worker through the process.
Monitoring and upgrading the plan
As your worker recovers, their capacity for duties at work will increase. You can gradually upgrade the plan by:
- increasing the hours of work
- reducing the number of rest breaks or length of rest breaks
- reducing assistance to the worker to complete tasks * requiring the worker to perform more work in the same time period (increasing the work pace)
- introducing new duties that allow increased physical or functional demand.
Reviewing your plan
Regular plan reviews ensure your worker’s recovery progresses. Progress can be monitored and reviewed both formally and informally.
- Information reviews
Informal reviews may be weekly and involve a chat between you, the worker and any staff involved in your worker’s recover at work plan. Discuss the arrangements in the plan ensuring they remain relevant to your worker and workplace and identify any problems or concerns that may be emerging. In the early stages of the plan, check your worker’s progress frequently as this is the time problems are most likely to occur.
- Formal reviews
The timing of a formal review is generally determined by the review date on the NSW workers compensation certificate of capacity. If your worker is progressing well and you and the worker agree to increased duties, suggest the worker make an earlier appointment to see the doctor to have their capacity reviewed. If your worker is reporting difficulties following the plan and minor changes do not fix the problem, ask your worker to make an appointment with the doctor to have their capacity reviewed as soon as possible.
It may be appropriate to consider a case conference with your worker and the doctor to discuss the issues.
- Updating your plan
Over time, as your worker’s capacity increases, you will need to update your recover at work plan. Each version of the plan should describe the gradual updates to your worker’s duties and reflect their current capacity. The plan must reflect all changes, even minor ones.
When creating a new version, consulting with your worker and seeking their agreement will promote ongoing commitment to the goal.
Provide a copy of the new version to the worker.
It is also good practice to:
- number each plan so everyone involved knows which is the current version eg Plan No. 1, Plan No. 2
- provide copies of the revised plan to the worker’s line manager
- consider the need to organise a case conference with your worker and their doctor if agreement between you and the worker cannot be reached
- ensure changes to the plan are focused on achieving progress towards the agreed outcome.
- What to do if the plan isn't working
Weekly monitoring will help you identify early if the plan is not working. Act quickly to identify the problem, discuss it with your insurer and the doctor and consider strategies that could be implemented such as:
- referral to an approved workplace rehabilitation provider (if not yet involved)
- a workplace assessment to review the worker’s capacity and/or identify additional duties to support upgrades in capacity
- provision of equipment or workplace modifications.
Agree to the most appropriate strategy together and update the recover at work plan, ensuring it is distributed to all the people involved in your worker’s recovery process.