Articles

The Return to Work Coordinators' Code of Ethics

Anna Kelsey-Sugg

After return to work coordinators expressed to us a lack of formal guidance in their role as coordinators, and - more specifically - the lack of a Code of Ethics - we set about developing one.

The Return To Work Code of Ethics provides a framework for the practice of return to work coordinators.

We invited comment and suggestions from RTW Coordinators around the country, as well as injury and rehabilitation managers, and occupational health and safety staff. The Code is a result of all of these voices which spoke of the instruction and guidance required to perform the role of Return To Work Coordinator in the most effective way possible.

The Code is designed to support return to work coordinators and assist them when confronted by ethical dilemmas.

The definition of "ethics":

  • Our trusty Macquarie tells us ethics constitute “A system of moral principles by which human actions and proposals may be judged good or bad or right or wrong”.

The role of the return to work coordinator:

  • Co-ordinate the group process that facilitates and expedites rehabilitation and return to work (RTW) for individual employees within the workplace
  • Demonstrate care and understanding towards the employee and their illness or injury
  • Implement and administer the employer’s policy on RTW and review this policy regularly
  • Establish professional conduct between all parties. Create and maintain partnerships and facilitate open communication with the employee, managers, treating medical practitioners and other external providers to positively assist the RTW process
  • Educate the employee, managers, treating medical practitioners and other external providers about their roles and responsibilities in return to work, and explain and make clear your own.
  • Encourage employers to provide safe and suitable employment and be actively involved in the rehabilitation and return to work for the injured worker.

The role in relation to the employee:

  • Consider first the well-being of the employee and treat the employee with respect
  • Regularly review return to work plans in place to ensure they match the abilities of the individual
  • Intervene early to improve outcomes
  • Approach return to work care as a collaboration between yourself and the employee, as well as co-workers, senior management and health care providers. Lead this collaboration
  • Maintain appropriate, regular communication with the employee from day one of the injury/illness
  • Recognise people who are distressed can be challenging to deal with
  • Respect the right of the person to have a say in their treatment, choice of providers and the work duties they perform
  • Inform the employee of their role and responsibilities within the workplace and within the compensation system
  • Maintain employee confidentiality
  • Return the individual to work in the same team and role wherever possible
  • Minimise disputes
  • Practise your role to the best of your ability

The role in relation to the workplace:

  • Encourage training of supervisors and foster supervisor input
  • Educate coworkers about their important role in supporting an employee back to work
  • Develop and implement effective workplace policies and procedures and ensure senior management understands them and their value
  • Encourage senior management to communicate with the individual and co-workers
  • Ensure that co-workers and senior management understand the limits of confidentiality
  • Advocate and facilitate a workplace culture that supports return to work
  • Do not participate in workplace activities that conflict with moral, ethical or legal standards
  • Address individual behaviour that exploits the spirit of company policy or the compensation system
  • Encourage third party mediation of differences that cannot otherwise be resolved
  • Manage work and non-work related health conditions in the same way, where at all practicable.

The role in relation to external providers:

  • Use providers who are qualified and focus on healthy outcomes
  • Ensure providers respect the confidentiality and needs of the employee and the employer 
  • Lead and encourage open communication between yourself, the employee and the external providers.

The role in relation to insurance agents, authorities and the system:

  • Inform claims managers about issues that may result in prolonged disability
  • Provide return to work information to claims managers, such as return to work plans
  • Foster communication that informs speedy decision making.

Competence:

  • Continue self-education to improve your standard of return to work effectiveness
  • Improve the level of knowledge and skills in return to work management, workers’ compensation and rehabilitation within your organisation
  • Participate in relevant training programs, workshops, forums and conferences
  • Improve conflict resolution skills, including effective management and negotiation skills
  • Recognise your own limitations and don't perform duties for which you are not suitably competent or qualified; instead, know how to access and who to turn to for specialised advice.

RTW Community:

  • Build a professional reputation based on ability, care and respect
  • Encourage practice and development of ethical standards that promote the return to work community
  • Offer advice and support to other RTW Coordinators, particularly to people who are new to the role
  • Foster communication with policy makers to support the development of appropriate system rules
  • Observe ethical standards and professional conduct in interactions with other professionals involved with the individual and workplace.

RTWMatters welcomes your comments on The RTW Code of Ethics at any time. Let us know what you think here.