Standard return to work program


All employers must have a return to work program. A return to work program documents the employer’s policies and procedures for managing workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness.

This standard return to work program can be used by most small employers – (see page 3). After filling in company details, copies of this program should be placed in locations where workers will be able to easily refer to it.

Employers are encouraged to adapt this program to ensure it works for the individual workplace. Employers should ensure that the program is:

  • consistent with their workers compensation agent/insurer’s injury management program (contact your agent/insurer for more information)
  • reviewed every two years.

The program outlines general procedures for handling workplace injuries. In conjunction with this program when a worker is injured, a return to work plan should be developed and tailored to suit the particular needs of the individual who is injured.

Following an injury, the employer, agent/insurer and treating doctor must work together to develop an individually tailored injury management plan for the injured worker. This plan outlines the treatment, rehabilitation and return to work of the injured worker.

Injury management

Injury management is the term used to cover all aspects of managing a worker’s injury or illness and their return to work.

The aim of effective injury management is a timely, safe and durable return to work for workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness. The key to effective injury management involves:

  • having systems in place so that everyone in the workplace agrees, understands and knows what to do in the event of an injury
  • early reporting of injuries – workplace injuries must be reported to the workers compensation agent/insurer within 48 hours
  • timely provision of treatment and assistance for return to work
  • appropriate return to work – the workplace is the most effective place for a worker to recover
  • the injured worker, the employer, the agent/insurer and treatment providers working in an effective and coordinated way
  • timely payment of weekly benefits and medical expenses.

More information

Return to work program flow chart

This plan must outline how the employer is going to help the injured worker back to work. Key to the success of the plan is to offer the injured worker ‘suitable’ duties – duties that are appropriate given the worker’s injury and capacity for work. Scheme agents/ insurers and SIRA approved workplace rehabilitation providers can assist employers develop an appropriate return to work plan.

For more information, refer to the guidelines for workplace return to work programs.

Customised return to work programs

Large employers must develop a customised return to work program if they:

  • have a basic tariff premium that exceeds $50,000 per annum
  • are self-insured
  • are insured by a specialised insurer, and employ more than 20 workers.

For more information, refer to the guidelines for workplace return to work programs.

There are some exemptions from the requirement to establish a return to work program – for example owner builders and where family members are the only employees and are not in an employment relationship with the employer. For more information refer to section 15L of the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Regulation 2003.


Agent/insurers also have responsibilities to assist injured workers return to work. Similar to the employers’ return to work program, agent/insurers have an injury management program, which is a set of procedures to follow when an agent/insurer is notified about an injured worker.

Injury management program