Injury Management: how to create your policy
Injury management policies:
- Provide an outline of the organisation’s commitment to RTW
- Provide a framework for action
- Allow the organisation’s policies to be visible and consistent for staff
- Can be recognised an used in a court of law
- Provide a reference guide for staff
- Clarify roles and responsibilities.
- Allow the organisation to assess their performance against the stated goals
The injury management policy should include a commitment statement regarding workplace injury management, signed by the most senior person in the organisation. It should outline the company’s policies and procedures. This might include a description of the roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders, instructions for workplace rehabilitation and documented procedures which expand on the expected courses of action.
The major elements of an injury management policy are:
This outlines the processes involved in the system, including a definition of early intervention, timeframes for reporting, guidelines for contact, principles around RTW and the response style.
It may also include a description of appropriate return to work duties in descending order of preference. This is generally (i) Normal job (ii) Modified version of normal job (iii) Alternate duties in the same department (iv) A different job in a different department within the same organisation (v) Assistance to retrain or find another job.
It should additionally describe the key people in RTW (employee and supervisor) and other key stakeholders (RTW coordinator, HR staff or external service providers), and describe the components of the return to work plan, including seeking the advice of the treating practitioner regarding restrictions.
Co-worker support and co-operation is vital for a successful return to work, and this should be mentioned in the policy. They may also be advised on how they can assist the injured employee’s RTW endeavours, and with permission may be advised on the injured employee’s needs.
3.Focus on a return to normal duties
Many injured employees are able to return to good levels of function within relatively short periods of time. The policy may state the workplace’s commitment to providing flexibility and support in return to work.
The policy should address employee confidentiality issues, along with an assurance that both hard and soft copy files are kept securely. Return to work restrictions and duties are not confidential matters but they should be dealt with respectfully.
5.Keeping employees informed
The policy should contain a statement of intent to inform the employee early regarding matters relating to their claim. These may include their rates of pay, the importance of employee involvement in RTW, how the employee can positively influence the situation, including supervisors, managers, claims officers and treating practitioners, as well as how they can influence their workplace relations and maximise their chance of receiving support.
To improve efficiency and transparency, standardised documents may be useful. These might include RTW plans, letters to doctors, letters to employees, job demands analysis, a bank of modified duties with accompanying job descriptions. While these may not be included in the policy document, they are useful to have on hand to provide as required.
Not all return to work processes are simple. The Injury Management Policy must be broad enough to encompass all eventualities. Some of the situations which will need to be taken into account are:
Some injuries are so serious that worker are unable to return to their previous role. If this is the case, then early identification means that attention can be given to retraining the employee and to the exploration of other career options. It is advisable for the policy to recommend early assessment of likely outcomes.
2.Completion of Employment
Termination of employment on medical grounds may occur if the injured worker is unable to return to work. The definition and process for this should be included in the policy, along with advice about ongoing compensation. The policy may for example suggest that the employee seek advice from their union.
As work injury and return to work plans are new to many employees and they may not fully understand the system, it is advisable to include a dispute resolution plan to defuse the situation if there are differing viewpoints.
The policy should outline support people for the employee (such as union officials or workplace representatives), the process for the resolution and the timeframe. It is always best for disputes to be resolved as quickly as possible when practicable. Capped assistance may also be provided by the employer to avoid a formal disputation process.
Once the policy is developed, it’s very important for the senior management or the organisation to offer their support. This will make the implementation much more successful.
Once it has been signed off, the policy should be made available to all staff. Methods for reaching them may include intranet, internet, posters, email, staff training, newsletters, induction manuals and through annual reports.
The policy should also be seen to be applied. If managers breach the policy, they should undergo disciplinary procedures, again as outlined in the policy.
The policy should be reviewed each year with consultation to ensure that it remains up to date with the current requirements.