GN 7.8 Connect2work program

Published: 30 April 2020
Last edited: 30 April 2020

Application: This guidance applies to exempt workers

Overview

The Connect2work program is designed to support workers (trainees) to continue recovery through a short-term work placement with a host employer (the host). The program has been developed in recognition of the economic and business impacts of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and can be accessed during the period of the pandemic.

The program:

  • Provides host employers with a payment of $200 per week for up to 12 weeks
  • Supports workers where:
    • Their pre-injury employer is unable to offer suitable work due to COVID-19 or
    • They are looking for new employment.

Eligibility

Worker eligibility

A worker is eligible to participate in the program if:

  • they are receiving, or are entitled to receive, weekly payments under the under the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (1987 Act)
  • they have capacity to work for at least 15 hours per week, however their pre-injury employer is unable to provide suitable work due to the impact of COVID-19, or the worker is looking for new employment
  • a commutation or work injury damages settlement has not been accepted.

Employer eligibility

An employer may be eligible to participate in the program if they:

  • have no workers compensation liability to the trainee
  • have no current employer-employee relationship with the trainee
  • hold a current workers compensation policy with an insurer in NSW or a self-insurer’s licence
  • are not grouped with the pre-injury employer for workers compensation insurance or insured under the same group self-insurer licence as the pre-injury employer.

Note: A host employer may only have more than one trainee involved in a Connect2work program at any given time if they are be able to provide adequate training and supervision to the trainees. Consideration should be made to ensure trainees have the appropriate support in place given the social distancing requirements for COVID-19.

NSW state government employers may use a Connect2work placement within other state government departments.

A Commonwealth or interstate employer may be eligible for the program if they meet the criteria.

Note: The insurer is to determine whether the employer meets the eligibility criteria on a case-by-case basis.

Principles

An application for the Connect2work program can be made if:

  • the placement is appropriate to the person’s skills, work capacity and is the most suitable option for the worker’s circumstances, and
  • the placement will assist the worker to continue their recovery through work, and
  • the goals of the placement support the worker’s recover at work plan.

Preparing for the program

The worker, insurer, employer or an approved workplace rehabilitation provider may determine that a host employer placement is a suitable strategy to help the worker recover at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workplace assessment

Assessment of suitability of a host placement is to be managed by the workplace rehabilitation provider.

A workplace assessment must be conducted to:

  • match the specific goals of the placement and capacity of the trainee to the essential requirements of the job
  • assess the worker’s ability to perform the tasks safely.

The person conducting the assessment must meet the minimum qualifications for workplace assessment. The worker and host employer must be present and involved in the workplace assessment to confirm the host’s capacity and willingness to offer duties that will support the trainee’s recovery at work.

The assessment may occur remotely however the provider must ensure that the host has adequate controls in place to manage the trainee’s safety. This includes managing social distancing requirements as per the state and public health directions. Any concerns raised during, or as a result of the workplace assessment should be discussed with the host employer in order to identify a solution for the placement to proceed.

Where specific equipment or workplace modifications are required, refer to Insurer guidance GN 7.7 Equipment and workplace modifications. The provider must ensure that any equipment or changes to the work environment are implemented before the program begins.

Equipment requests must be made with reference to the principles and requirements outlined in the SIRA equipment and workplace modifications guidance material.

Providers are to consider and address any issues relating to confidentiality, for example where the role involves access to personal information (eg medical receptionist, office administrator). The provider should be satisfied that the trainee is aware of and will be trained regarding any confidentiality or code of conduct requirements at that workplace.

Conflict of interest

The program may be considered unsuitable where there is a professional or personal relationship between the proposed host and the trainee, or a business relationship between any of the parties involved.

If a potential conflict of interest is identified, the provider should outline why the program should be approved. This should include the strategies that will be implemented to address the conflict of interest. The application will need to be endorsed by SIRA to proceed if there is a conflict of interest identified.

Insurance

The provider must ensure the host and trainee have the necessary insurance coverage before developing a Connect2work proposal.

Professional indemnity insurance

If the placement involves the provision of professional services (for example nursing, teaching, engineering), the host must have professional indemnity insurance covering the professional staff that will provide direction and supervision to the trainee, as the nominated supervisor is responsible for work performed by the trainee.

Public liability insurance

The host employer must have public liability insurance cover appropriate to their circumstances.

Workers compensation

A host must hold a current workers compensation policy with an insurer or hold a current self-insurer licence.

Note: During the placement, the trainee is not a ‘worker’ as defined by the 1987 Act and has no claim against the host’s workers compensation insurance. If the trainee experiences changes to their existing injury or a new injury during the placement period, this will be managed by the insurer as part of the worker’s existing claim.

Motor vehicle insurance - host

Where the trainee is required to drive in the course of performing duties during the placement, it is expected that a vehicle will be provided by the host. Vehicles owned by the host must have comprehensive motor vehicle insurance.

Where it is essential for the trainee to drive in the course of performing duties during the placement and the host is unable to provide a vehicle, the vehicle that will be used by the trainee must have comprehensive insurance.

Motor vehicle insurance - trainee

Any vehicle used by the trainee to travel to and from the placement must have third-party property insurance as a minimum level of insurance coverage.

Length of host employer placement

A trainee may participate in one or more Connect2work programs for a combined total period of up to 12 weeks. The length of a placement with a host will be dependent on the worker’s recover at work plan and the host’s capacity to provide supervision and/or training.

Extension beyond 12 weeks will be considered by the insurer where it is the most suitable recover at work strategy for a worker.

Review process

If there is a disagreement about eligibility or use of the program, the worker should try to resolve the matter with the insurer in the first instance.

If the insurer decides an application does not meet eligibility criteria and program requirements, a worker and/or employer can request a review from SIRA. Refer to the SIRA review process fact sheet for details about how to request a review.

SIRA has a range of programs to support recovery at work. If an employer or worker does not meet the criteria for this program, the worker may be eligible for another program such as a work trial to support their recovery at work.

Confirmation of agreement

Connect2work placement proposal and recover at work plan

Using information from the workplace assessment, the provider must complete a Connect2work host employer agreement and develop a recover at work plan in consultation with the worker and host employer.

The forms must be completed and signed by the trainee, host and provider prior to the program commencement. The provider must ensure the worker and host have a copy of the forms.

The provider should ensure:

  • all parties understand their responsibilities and agree with the goals of the work placement
  • the host employer has confirmed their capacity and commitment to provide adequate supervision and training to achieve the goals of the work placement
  • the host is aware that the trainee will be participating in a supernumerary capacity, that all work must be appropriately supervised and that the nominated supervisor will be responsible for work performed by the trainee
  • the trainee and host are aware of the notification requirements should the trainee experience a recurrence or aggravation of their existing injury, or sustain a new injury
  • any equipment, workplace modification, education or training required is provided prior to the placement commencement
  • evidence of the workplace assessment is retained on the trainee’s file.

Provider endorsement and quality assurance review

SIRA requires providers to implement an internal quality assurance review of all Connect2work proposals. The provider must follow their internal quality assurance processes to confirm the application meets eligibility, program principles and requirements.

Insurer endorsement

Once the quality assurance review is completed the recover at work plan and host employer agreement is submitted to the insurer for review and endorsement.

The proposal must be submitted to the insurer five working days before the planned commencement of the work placement. The insurer will review the proposal against the guidance material and advise the provider if the work placement should proceed.

If the program is not approved, the insurer must advise the worker and employer of the SIRA review process. See fact sheet How to request a review of a program decision.

Accessing the assistance payment

The $200 per week assistance payment is payable directly to the host for each week a trainee attends the Connect2work placement. The payment will be calculated on the number of weeks the trainee participates in the placement (up to a maximum $2,400).

To claim the assistance payments, the host must complete a Vocational program - claim for payment form and submit the completed form to the workplace rehab ilitation provider.

The host may claim the incentive payment at the end of the placement. If the placement is 6 weeks or longer, the workplace rehabilitation provider should discuss with the host and insurer the preferred reimbursement schedule to enable the placement to proceed.

The provider reviews the claim for payment and submits the form to the insurer confirming the worker’s attendance at the Connect2work placement for the period being claimed.

Following the provider’s confirmation of worker’s attendance, the insurer is to make payments in line with the amount(s) approved and pay in a timely manner.

If the trainee commences the program and requires time off work (for example, for surgery or annual leave) or ceases the placement, assistance payments are not payable for the weeks that the trainee is absent from the placement.

The placement may resume if the trainee and host remain eligible and all parties agree that it is the most suitable recover at work strategy.

Host employers should consult their accountant or the Australian Taxation Office about how the assistance payment should be treated for taxation purposes.

Insurers must have controls in place to prevent duplicate payments being made and claimed.

Payment of related program costs

The insurer is responsible for administering payments for Connect2work.

Payments should be made in line with the amount(s) approved. Payment should only be made where there is evidence of cost/expenditure (e.g. purchase order, tax invoice, receipts or record of travel such as a travel log or fares).

Up to $300 may be paid in advance (where appropriate) for travel. Claims for travel expenses should be supported by a travel log which includes dates of travel, cost of fares/kilometres travelled and destinations.

Insurer/agent reimbursement

Insurers can request reimbursement from SIRA for the recover at work assist program costs. Insurers and agents are to ensure that all claims for reimbursement can be substantiated. Substantiated means programs are approved and supported by appropriate evidence of the expenses.

Specialised insurers

Reimbursements from SIRA can be claimed within six months of the costs being incurred by submitting a claim for payment, evidence of payment and relevant receipts.

Nominal Insurer

Reimbursements from SIRA can be claimed by a tax invoice. The invoice should be accompanied by an itemised breakdown of the costs by claim and program type.

For more information about making a claim for reimbursement contact vocprograms@sira.nsw.gov.au.

During the Connect2work placement

Trainee

During the placement, the trainee agrees:

  • to follow the recover at work plan and advice of the provider
  • to follow the directions of the host (where these do not contradict the provider’s advice), and
  • to comply with the policies and procedures of the workplace.

It is in the trainee’s best interest to maximise the training opportunities of their Connect2work placement. They should discuss any concerns or difficulties with the host and/or the provider to allow issues to be addressed promptly and effectively.

Host employer

In the host employer agreement, the host agrees to provide an appropriate level of training and supervision for the trainee.

It is the host’s responsibility to provide direction and feedback, and to oversee work performed by the trainee. This may involve verbal instruction, observation, supervised attempts and the opportunity to practice tasks or skills, depending on the nature of the work. Effective, timely instruction and feedback maximises the trainee’s opportunity for learning and skill development.

Workplace rehabilitation provider

The provider is responsible for proactively managing all aspects of the Connect2work placement to optimise the outcome for the trainee and ensure the trainee’s goals are achieved. Monitoring should include:

  • ensuring necessary equipment is available to the trainee upon commencement and that it is used appropriately so the trainee can meet their work responsibilities
  • monitoring worker attendance during the placement
  • ensuring the host provides the necessary level of supervision and performance feedback, as well as opportunities for training in the agreed tasks
  • ensuring work duties are performed safely and in accordance with the recover at work plan
  • anticipating and identifying barriers or issues
  • using a collaborative problem-solving approach to implement solutions
  • communicating progress and outcomes of the placement as agreed with the trainee, employer and insurer.

Change in circumstances

Eligibility should be assessed throughout the program. The insurer must be notified if circumstances change and affect the eligibility of the worker and/or the employer.

A worker must immediately withdraw from the Connect2work placement if a commutation or work injury damages settlement is accepted.

A host must not make any payments to the trainee. If payments are made, the placement must cease, and employment arrangements be negotiated instead.

The provider should notify the insurer in writing if the Connect2work placement is withdrawn or ceased prior to completion of the recover at work plan.

Any extension or amendment to the Connect2work placement must be negotiated with the trainee, host and insurer. The application for extension/amendment must include sufficient information to demonstrate the change is necessary and that it will facilitate achievement of the trainee’s goals.

A vocational program – details form must be completed a minimum of five working days before the requested change is implemented.  The recover at work plan and host agreement should be updated as appropriate and the insurer should agree with the return to work strategy.

Notification of injury

If the trainee experiences a change to their existing injury or sustains a new injury that results in a change in their return to work status, need for treatment, or participation in the work placement:

  1. the trainee must promptly notify the host
  2. the trainee or the host must notify the provider within 24 hours of the injury
  3. the provider must notify the insurer and SIRA within 48 hours of receiving notification from the trainee or host (by phone and/or email)
  4. the provider is responsible for facilitating completion of the injury notification form (by the trainee and host), and ensuring it is returned to the insurer within one week of injury notification.
  5. The insurer will review the injury notification form as well as any additional evidence and determine liability for the injury.
    • Where liability is accepted, the insurer updates/reviews the injury management plan to include recommended management of the work placement injury.
    • Where liability is disputed the insurer is to issue a decision notice in accordance with section 78 of the 1998 Act.

Notification of damages

If the trainee’s actions result in damage to plant or equipment:

  • the trainee must advise the host immediately
  • the host must advise the provider within 24 hours of the incident
  • the provider must advise SIRA  by emailing vocprograms@sira.nsw.gov.au within 24 hours of receiving notification from the host.

SIRA will notify the provider of further necessary action.

Note: SIRA may reimburse additional expenses for claims made on the host’s insurance policies, if they resulted from the trainee’s actions. Additional expenses are limited to the premium excess or increase directly resulting from the trainee’s actions.

Liability for negligence remains the responsibility of the host.

Completion of the program

On completion of the Connect2work placement, the provider evaluates the outcome with the trainee, host employer and insurer.

The provider must evaluate the success of the return to work plan against the goals of the program. The provider must also submit a vocational program – closure report to the insurer and SIRA by email to vocprograms@sira.nsw.gov.au within five working days of completion of the work placement. The closure report will help the insurer, employer and worker determine what, if any further return to work assistance is required.

An analysis of the closure reports enables us to evaluate the benefits of the program and identify program improvements.

If the host offers the trainee employment after completion of Connect2work, the host may be eligible to use other SIRA vocational programs to support employment for the worker. Refer to Insurer guidance GN 7.1 SIRA funded programs for more information.

Email