Worker’s compensation legislation schemes focus on returning injured employees to either pre-injury employment, or some form of employment, and the legislation accordingly imposes strict duties on employers in this regard.
In South Australia, section 18 of the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) provides that:
If a worker who has been incapacitated for work in consequence of a work injury is able to return to work (whether on a full-time or part-time basis and whether or not to his or her previous employment), the employer from whose employment the injury arose (the "pre-injury employer") must provide suitable employment for the worker (the employment being employment for which the worker is fit and, subject to that qualification and this section, so far as reasonably practicable the same as, or equivalent to, the employment in which the worker was working immediately before the incapacity).
In NT, section 75A of the Return to Work Act 1986 (NT) similarly provides that:
An employer who is liable under this Part to compensate an injured worker must do the following:
(a)take reasonable steps to ensure that suitable employment is provided to the worker in accordance with the worker's medical certificate of capacity;
(b)take reasonable steps to ensure that efforts to retrain the worker are undertaken if required to enable the worker to engage in the suitable employment;
(c)give a proposal in writing for a return to work plan to the worker within 7 days after the employer becomes aware that the worker's total or partial incapacity is likely to exceed 28 days.
What does this mean in practice?
It means that, as an employer, you must:
- Seek to return the employee to their pre-injury employment, as soon as they are cleared for such duties.
- Until they can return to such pre-injury employment, and once they are cleared for suitable duties, endeavour to provide such suitable duties (which may be modified, alternative or light duties).
- If the employee cannot return to their pre-injury employment, and not suitable duties can be identified, then you may be asked to work with the employee and your insurer/claims agent to assist the employee to secure suitable duties with another employer (this may involve the employee being provided with training and/or support to secure other employment).
Please note that these duties are quite strict and are strongly enforced by the courts and the regulators.
If you have questions about worker’s compensation, contact the WR team to assist, on