Recovery at work

Published: 12 August 2019
Last edited: 12 August 2019

The NSW workers compensation system focuses on supporting workers to recover at work after an injury.

It is important for workers, employers and other stakeholders to be aware that:

  • the longer someone is off work, the less chance they have of ever returning
  • good work is a therapeutic intervention, it is part of treatment
  • typically, waiting for recovery delays recovery
  • staying away from work may lead to depression, isolation and poorer health, and
  • employer-supported early return to work helps recovery, prevents de-conditioning and helps provide workers with appropriate social contacts and support mechanisms.

Strategies to help worker recovery

Strategies to help workers recover at work include:

  • focusing on what they can do, rather than on what they can’t
  • talking to their doctor and employer about what they can safely do at work
  • considering the nature of their capacity, age, education, skills and work experience when identifying suitable work
  • making a plan to get back to work and seeking support from professionals if needed
  • staying in touch with their employer and the people they work with if they are not yet able to return to work
  • encouraging them to talk to their doctor about pain so they can understand that some increase in pain during activity does not mean that the injury is being made worse
  • making a referral to a workplace rehabilitation provider for assistance.

Resources are available on the SIRA website that provide further information and tools to support recovery at work, including:

What are the health benefits of good work?

The health benefits of good work initiative was developed by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). This initiative, based on compelling global evidence, states that good work is beneficial to human health and wellbeing.

According to the Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Good Work (consensus statement) issued by the AFOEM:

Good work is engaging, fair and respectful and balances job demands, autonomy and job security. Good work accepts the importance of culture and traditional beliefs. It is characterised by safe and healthy work practices and it strikes a balance between the interests of individuals, employers and society.

The following principles from the consensus statement outline the health benefits of good work:

  • The provision of good work is a key determinant of the health and wellbeing of employees, their families and broader society.
  • Long term work absence, work disability and unemployment may have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.
  • All workplaces should strive to be both healthy and safe.
  • Providing access to good work is an effective means of reducing poverty and social exclusion.
  • With active assistance, many of those who have the potential to work, but are not currently working, can be enabled to access the benefits of good work.
  • Safe and healthy work practices, understanding and accommodating cultural and social beliefs, a healthy workplace culture, effective and equitable injury management programs and positive relationships within workplaces are key determinants of individual health, wellbeing, engagement and productivity.
  • Good outcomes are more likely when individuals understand, and are supported to access the benefits of good work especially when entering the workforce for the first time, seeking re-employment, or recovering at work following a period of injury or illness.

Applying the principles of good work

SIRA, insurers, employers, unions, legal practitioners, advocacy groups, and the medical, nursing and allied health professions all have roles to play to promote the health benefits of good work.

They can do this by:

  • helping workers understand the nature of good work and the health benefits associated with it
  • supporting workers and encouraging them to access the health benefits of good work
  • encouraging all employers to support workplace health.