Best practice vocational programs

The John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research (JWCRR) has completed a rapid review on best practice vocational programs.

This report outlines the published evidence on vocational programs between 2009 and 2019

Aim of the project: To identify best practice for vocational programs that are designed to support worker’s rehabilitation and recovery.

Publication details: This research report was prepared by the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research.

Stakeholders involved: SIRA and John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research​.


  • The impact of delayed return to work on injured people is a serious concern. ​
  • There is a strong body of empirical evidence that shows the longer an injured worker is away from work, the less likely they are ever to return.​


Best practice for VR programs:​

  • incorporate multiple components i.e. healthcare, service coordination and workplace/employer components ​
  • have early intervention ​
  • are tailored to meet the individual worker’s needs   ​

Workers injured at firms with employer RTW programs were more likely to return to work​

Modifying work equipment was associated with the greatest reduction in injury duration relative to any other stand-alone program component.​


Multi-component, comprehensive VR programs:​

  • seemed more able to integrate the differing perspectives of the various RTW stakeholders​
  • facilitate cooperation and commitment to the goal of work-disability reduction​
  • demonstrate improved and sustained work reintegration, and reduce costs associated with work-related injury or illness.​

Service coordination components play a critical role in keeping all stakeholders informed keep them working together toward a common goal.​


All vocational rehabilitation programs should:​

  • incorporate healthcare, service coordination and workplace/employer components​
  • commence early after injury/illness ​
  • be individually tailored ​
  • target workers who are at a higher risk of delayed return to work​
  • involve employer and other stakeholders​
  • encourage stakeholder awareness of the value of work for health and recovery.​


An overview of the results of this review were presented by Professor Ian Cameron, Head John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research (JWCRR), via webinar on 19 August 2020.