If a worker (who has been totally or partially incapacitated for work as a result of an injury or illness) is able to return to work, and the worker requests suitable work, the employer must provide suitable work for the worker.
Suitable work needs to be provided when a worker is unable to immediately return to their normal duties after a work related injury or illness.
The legislation refers to this as 'suitable employment'. However in general terms this can be referred to as:
- suitable duties
- alternate duties
- modified duties
- light duties.
The Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 requires employers to provide an opportunity to a worker to recover at work and/or return to work by providing work for which the worker is currently suited.
Your commitment to provide suitable work is a fundamental part of any successful recovery at work strategy and should take into account:
- the nature of the worker's capacity
- the worker's age, education, skills and work experience
- any injury management plan
- any workplace rehabilitation services available to the worker.
Failing to provide suitable work to a worker may have an impact on the cost of your workers compensation premium and be a breach of your legislative obligations. It may result in you receiving an improvement notice and/or a financial penalty.
How to identify suitable work
When considering what tasks to offer your worker, consider those closest to their pre-injury duties as the first option.
You can also consider:
- changing their hours of work
- modifying their duties
- giving them a different job
- providing training opportunities
- trying a different workplace
- a combination of these options.
When providing suitable work, you must seek to ensure that work is so far as reasonably practicable the same as, or equivalent to, the role in which the worker was in at the time of the injury.
How to plan for recovery at work
Our recover at work planning tool and template can help you and your worker plan their recovery.
- describe the plan in writing
- provide copies of the plan to the worker and their doctor
- provide the worker with a written copy of any changes made to the plan.
You may come across risk factors that could impact their recovery. Learn more about these by reading Identifying personal and environmental risk factors with FACTORWEB. If you think your worker has any of these risk factors, talk with your insurer for assistance.
Other help with getting people back to work is also available.
Even if there are no available duties, you have an obligation to actively participate in the recover at work planning process.
When suitable work does not have to be provided
You don’t need to provide suitable work to a worker with current work capacity when:
- it is not reasonably practicable to do so
- the worker voluntarily left employment, either before or after the start of the incapacity for work
- you terminated the worker’s employment for a reason not related to the injury.
It is an offence to dismiss a worker because of a work related injury within six months from when they first become unfit as a result of the injury.
Your worker also has obligations when recovering from an injury.
Nominated treating doctor obligations
Watch this video to find out how to communicate effectively with the nominated treating doctor.