Q: How important is the role of a Return to Work Coordinator?
A: Important enough that their work can minimise the risk of suicide following a work related injury.
In a recent case heard in the Northern Territory Magistrate’s Court – the family of a worker who committed suicide, as a result of suffering depression following a workplace injury, has been awarded compensation after claiming death benefits (allowable under the relevant Workers’ Compensation Act).
This case highlights the negative effects of:
- Poor workplace culture;
- Inconsistent communications and uncaring or unsympathetic treatment of workers by their employer post injury and pre return to work; and
- Slow diagnosis and delayed attention to the treatment of the injury or prolonged gaps in-between treatment of the injury.
As all of these factors can contribute the development of a psychological injury such as heightened levels of anxiety and stress as the worker recovers from injury, is not actively engaged in work or other satisfying activities and contemplates returning to work.
This case shows the need for a diligent, systematic, consistent and empathetic approach by a Return to Work (RTW) Coordinator for which the role is more than just the description provided by WorkCover Authorities.
Regular communications with an injured worker that tracks treatment, injury recovery progress, worker wellbeing and invites discussion around all types of possible barriers to returning to work creates more opportunities for discussion and resolution of issues. It also provides a more holistic approach to monitoring an injured worker (not just their injury), while assisting them to prepare for a return to work.
To offer this level of communication and documentation as the RTW Coordinator is not always possible in busy or small workplaces for which this role is but one of many hats worn by one employee.
If your RTW Coordinator is looking for some strategies to improve on the delivery of service being offered in this role or you need to be able to engage an external consultant to fulfill this role on an ad hoc basis, contact Workplace Conflict Resolution to discuss solutions that can be tailored to the needs of your business.