Managing return to work

Working with rehabilitation providers

As an employer you may use the services of a rehabilitation provider to help in the management of return to work after a mental health problem

When rehabilitation providers, employers and employees work together, successful return to work is more likely. As an employer, you need to guide the rehabilitation provider in order that they can work effectively. Good communication between all those involved helps keep return-to-work practices specific and focused on work function, workplace behaviour and return-to-work outcomes.

There are many rehabilitation providers, with varying levels of expertise. When choosing a provider, it can be useful to ask about:

  • their expertise in dealing with return to work after mental health problems
  • their expertise in dealing with your industry
  • their processes for ensuring that assessment and planning are workplace focused, with goals that focused on return-to-work outcomes and are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and aligned with evidence based recovery timeframes
  • how they ensure that rehabilitation activities are evidence-based and specific to the employee’s needs (including consideration of the physical, personal, social and environmental factors that influence return to work).
  • their processes for ensuring employee participation in return to work planning and empowerment of the employee to be actively involved in their rehabilitation
  • their processes for proactive management of the return to work plan and effective coordination with all key stakeholders their recommendations for what to do if an employee fails to make expected return-to-work progress
  • any documentation that demonstrates their competence in these areas, such as samples of reports, functional capacity evaluations, workplace assessments and suitable duties programs.

For more information on finding and liaising with a rehabilitation provider, see the Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association, the relevant workers compensation authority in your state or territory or the Comcare directory of providers.

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"In so many cases, managers or colleagues, they might think that there's a problem but they avoid it, they don't ask early enough. So by the time they do have the conversation, it's really difficult - people are on the back foot and it can get hostile. Managers need to be more proactive and have these conversations earlier. You can keep it low key, just check in with the person, ask them if they are getting the support they need."
HR Manager
*not her real name
"If someone broke their arm we wouldn't be worrying about whether or not we were liable, we'd just send them to the doctor. It should be the same for mental health problems."
OHS Manager
* not his real name
"Some employers think that if they accept that there is a problem, then that means they are accepting liability. Sometimes that stops them helping get employees into treatment. Actually they would be better off getting the person into treatment early - that's likely to reduce the risk of a stress claim. I recommend that where they can, employers offer to pay for two sessions of treatment without considering issues of liability."
Occupational Physician
*not her real name