Just because your injured worker is out of sight it doesn’t mean they should be out of mind.
Maintaining regular contact with employees off sick or away following a workplace injury not only makes them feel more valued but can actually assist with their recovery and safe return to work.
Contact might be a sensitive issue depending on circumstances, but it’s worth making the effort as helping your worker get back on deck – even on modified or new duties – is a positive outcome for both sides.
So aim to get involved in discussions with your insurer’s case manager about how workers will be consulted and keep the employee in the loop, sending them any work-related emails or texts so they are on the same page as their workmates.
Also consider forwarding your employee work-related documents or minutes and outcomes of meetings, particularly anything that is relevant to their role.
It’s vital you don’t let the extra workplace pressure or stress caused by the absence cloud your interaction with the worker, which could be counter-productive to their recovery or willingness to play ball.
Maybe try imagining the worker is a friend who you would go the extra mile for if they were in the same situation, and treat the absent worker accordingly. Reach out as much as you can within reason, always be positive and reassure them everything is going to be ok.
If there are any social work-related events or gatherings, even if it’s just a quick catch-up after work one afternoon, and you think the worker won’t be able to make it, invite them anyway.
Such efforts can go a long way to boosting your worker’s morale and reinforce how indispensable and critical they are, not only to you, but to the workplace and their colleagues.
Make sure you are available for any return to work meetings with the worker and case manager, and always maintain a positive can-do attitude towards them and the goal of a workplace return.
This process will also assist you with how best to plan for the worker’s safe return to work, especially if any adjustments to their normal workload, work area or tasks are necessary.
The good news is that you may be eligible for our Return to Work (RTW) Assist Program – your insurer can advise if you are – available for six weeks during the 13-week period from the date of injury. Extra funding may also be available to help cover costs of new equipment or modifications required because of the injury to enable your worker to resume duties or start a new role. Clearly the worker may not be firing on all cylinders, so this won’t be an easy task, but under the RTW Assist Program, your insurer continues to pay the worker’s weekly entitlements while they undergo a staged return to work on reduced hours and duties.
This arrangement will enable you to pay another worker to fill the injured worker’s role – or pay overtime to another worker – but the crucial thing is that the injured worker is back in the workplace where they will recover faster.
Residual pain, discomfort or anxiety can often be managed via appropriate task adjustments, while staying away from the workplace can be detrimental to recovery. It’s also possible that barriers to returning to work may build up due to personal or family-related issues – particularly if they are left alone to deal with problems – rather than the original injury or health condition.
Early action on your part will also help prevent a long-term absence turning into a resignation and the hassle of finding someone suitable to fill their shoes.
Speak to your insurer about your Return to Work Assist eligibility and find out more about assistance at workcover.nsw.gov.au where you can download the necessary paperwork: