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May 11, 2024 • 9 min read

What Is Workplace Rehabilitation?

Explore the essentials of workplace rehabilitation, including its goals, processes, and benefits.

Written by: Stephen Zeng

Workplace rehabilitation is a process designed to help injured or ill workers return to their work in a safe and timely manner. The goal of the rehabilitation process is to return the worker to their pre-injury duties and overcome any obstacles.

When a worker cannot do their original job right after an injury, a Return to Work Plan helps them get back into work gradually over a period of time. The range of suitable duties is determined by their doctor and rehab provider using evidence-based treatments.

Workplace rehabilitation is not only good for the worker’s well-being and job security, it also benefits employers by retaining valuable employees and reducing costs linked to workplace injuries.

What is a workplace rehabilitation provider?

A workplace rehabilitation provider is a specialised service crucial for assisting employees with work-related injuries or illnesses in their return to work. These providers address various risk factors that could hinder a worker’s recovery and job performance. Key services and roles include:

  • Identifying and addressing risk factors that might affect recovery, such as:
    • Finding suitable work
    • Dealing with slow recovery
    • Resolving communication issues.
    • Help identify vocational skills if they cannot return to their usual role
  • Employing a team of rehabilitation consultants, including health professionals like:
    • Occupational therapists
    • Physiotherapists
    • Exercise physiologists
    • Psychologists
  • Services provided range from:
    • Workplace assessment
    • Functional assessment
    • Return-to-work plans
    • Vocational counselling
    • Job seeking services

For a more comprehensive understanding of the role and services of workplace rehabilitation providers, more information can be found on our AusRehab Workplace Rehabilitation webpage.

What does workplace rehabilitation involve?

Workplace rehabilitation involves several steps to ensure a worker can safely and effectively return to work. What it entails depends on each injured worker’s circumstance and varies from person to person.

Here are the steps outline:

  • Initial Assessment: The first step involves understanding both the physical and mental health of the worker to create a personalised recovery plan. It’s crucial to identify the worker’s current capabilities and limitations to plan for their return effectively.
  • Return-to-Work Plan: The doctor and rehab provider will put together a custom plan tailored to the worker’s recovery needs. This can include an estimated time frame and recovery goals.
  • Workplace Assessment: The rehab provider assesses the worker’s pre-injury duties and work environment to see if it is safe and suitable for them. This step aims to identify potential hazards, ergonomic concerns, and any factors that impact the safety of the worker.
  • Medical Case Conference: A periodic meeting between the nominated treating doctor and the injured worker to see how they’re progressing, and if any adjustments are needed in their medical management. The insurer and rehab provider may also be involved.
  • Functional Capacity Evaluation: A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is an in-depth assessment designed to measure an individual’s ability to perform work-related tasks and activities of daily living.
  • Injury Management: This encompasses above steps such as attending medical case conferences and getting updates from treatment providers. Return-to-work planning should ensure the worker is receiving reasonable job accommodations that account for their injury.

Who chooses the workplace rehabilitation provider?

While doctors, employers or insurers can recommend a workplace rehabilitation provider to the worker, the worker has the right to select their preferred provider. A worker can request to change or choose their own rehabilitation provider to assist them on their path to recovery. 

Who pays for workplace rehabilitation services?

Workplace rehabilitation services fall under medical costs in Workers Compensation claims and are paid for by the insurer. Services must be considered reasonably necessary and require approval from the insurer based on the worker’s circumstances.

Benefits of workplace rehabilitation

Workplace rehabilitation provides a range of benefits to both employees and employers. Some key benefits include:

For Workers:

  • Faster return to work
  • Improves mental health
  • Less disruption to social and working life.
  • Better physical condition and confidence in returning to work
  • Maintains job and financial security

For Employers:

  • Retention of skilled workers
  • Enhanced productivity and resilience
  • Improves workplace morale
  • Reduces costs such as WorkCover premiums and replacement costs.
  • Compliance with legislative obligations.

Additional Insights:

“Workplace rehabilitation is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance between work and recovery, ensuring both the well-being of employees and a productive work environment for employers.”

  • Recovering at work is shown to significantly improve well-being.
  • It helps maintain connections, encourages activity, boosts confidence, and minimises the risk of long-term disability.
  • Returning to work doesn’t require being fully recovered; even part-time work can aid in recovery.
  • The longer someone is off work, the less likely it is for them to return. If a worker is off work for 20 days, the chance of returning drops to 70%, and it decreases further the longer one is absent.

Further information on workplace rehabilitation

*The details in this article were correct and current when it was written. However, changes in business practices, policies, and other pertinent areas may have occurred since then. Readers should confirm the current validity of the content on their own.

Stephen Zeng
Stephen is the director and the principal writer at AusRehab, leading workplace rehabilitation provider, with a focus on addressing and resolving workplace injuries.

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