Research consistently shows that returning to work after illness or injury can deliver many benefits to the injured worker, their employer and the community. ISCRR researchers examine return to work outcomes, explore the factors that impact return work, and how to improve outcomes.
Victorian Injured Worker Outcomes Study (VIWOS)
The Victorian Government has committed to conducting an enquiry into the outcomes for injured workers with long-term injuries, with a focus on transition points in the system faced by injured workers and employers. In 2015, WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) commissioned a study through ISCRR to fulfil this commitment. The purpose of the VIWOS study was to: • examine the long-term health, social and economic outcomes for workers who do not return to work after a long-term compensable injury. • identify key transition points in the compensation system that can effect recovery. • examine the rates of non-return to work for injured workers who have been off work for a period of at least six months and at key milestone points in the compensation process. • identify factors (e.g. demographic, work, health, medical management, social) that influence recovery and return to work. The original project scope was in three phases, with Phase 1 undertaking a qualitative study through a series of in-depth interviews with injured workers, healthcare providers, employers and insurers to understand factors influencing the development of prolonged claims and consequences for workers who become long-term injured. Phase 2 undertook an analysis of claims data to identify modifiable and non-modifiable factors associated with longer-term claims. The aim of the Phase 3 project was to understand the outcomes for long-term injured workers who were no longer eligible for ongoing wage replacement and had not returned to safe work. This report summarises the findings from the Phase 3 of the Victorian Injured Worker Outcomes Study (VIWOS).
Strategies to enable physiotherapists to promote timely return to work following injury Research Report
With growing evidence of the health benefits of returning to work, this study examined the role of physiotherapists in return to work processes. Similar to the GP study (2.25 above), this study sought to first identify the barriers and facilitators which affected return to work outcomes in clients who were seeing a physiotherapist as a part of their treatment. The factors identified in this study which hindered or facilitated an injured worker’s return to work were: injured worker attitudes, the workplace, unified targets and positive approaches to care by all stakeholders, system delays, and inappropriate certification of capacity, communication skills, and knowledge of the Victorian compensation system. Based on these findings an online education program for physiotherapists was developed. The program consisted of a variety of resources and also developed an incentive-based system to encourage physiotherapists to undertake the training. Physiotherapists who complete the Early Intervention Physiotherapy Framework (EIPF) qualify as registered providers for TAC/WorkSafe under a new payment structure and were classified as EP (EIPF trained) physiotherapists for evaluation of the program. Physiotherapists who opted not to complete the EIPF modules continued to operate under the existing physiotherapy policies for the respective organisations and were classified as RP (regular) physiotherapists for evaluation of the program. Early evaluation results suggested that this program is delivering positive results in terms of return to work rates and marked improvements in physiotherapists’ understanding of the clinical framework and relevant TAC and WorkSafe policy and procedures.
Date published: September 2015
Interventions to improve return to work outcomes in individuals with mental health conditions Evidence Review
This evidence review provides an evidence based assessment of the effectiveness of return to work interventions for individuals with mental illness. The overall aim was to identify an effective intervention which could be trialled by WorkSafe Victoria to improve return to work outcomes. The evidence reporting efficacy of return to work interventions for adjustment disorder suggests that problem solving therapy in addition to care as usual reduces the number of days until partial and full return to work. In addition, work-directed, psychological or combined interventions are effective in reducing the number of days until return to work in the setting of depression. Taken together, these findings identify effective intervention strategies for return to work and highlight the need for implementation of interventions to facilitate return to work in a mental illness-specific manner.
Date published: June 2015
Visualising the return to work process Poster
Effective social problem solving during Return-To-Work is predicated upon shared understandings of the RTW process. The RTW process however occurs in a multi-actor service system; such systems are diffuse and shared understandings are not always evident
Keywords: ACHRF 2014, Richard Cooney, Nifeli Stewart, Tania Ivanka,
Date published: November 2014
The experience of achieving a successful employment outcome following traumatic spinal cord injury Research Report
Return to Work is widely known to improve client outcomes. This study examined the experiences of people seeking, gaining or maintaining employment after suffering traumatic spinal cord injury. The study identified that the type of work undertaken before injury impacted on return to work prospects, particularly as in some cases people were unable to return to their pre-injury workplace. When investigating factors that helped facilitate returning to their original workplace or finding employment elsewhere when that wasn’t suitable, it was identified that participating in further study greatly increased employment opportunities post-injury. Additionally, the study found that many people with injury were unaware of their options or what they could do to seek employment.
Date published: August 2014
Understanding individual, workplace and system level influences on return to work in the context of the ageing Victorian labour market. Research Report
This project tested the usefulness of a questionnaire approach to collect information from WorkSafe Victoria claimants in relation to motivations around return to work, productivity once returned to work, and self-efficacy to return to work. Initial findings from the survey showed some insights into differences in motivations and barriers to return to work across injury types and age groups.
Date published: June 2014
The implementation of beneficial return to work practices in Victorian organizations: Policy and governance considerations Research Report
This research examined the system requirements for promoting optimal return to work outcomes. The evidence identified that return to work outcomes are more likely to be successful when infrastructure that supports the employee to return to work is in place. The infrastructure included support for employee wellbeing, training for managers and employees in return to work, and effective organisational governance arrangements for injured workers to return to work.
Date published: May 2014
A process evaluation of the new certificate of capacity for compensation claims Research Report
Following on from earlier research, a new Certificate of Capacity was designed for GPs to help them better assess what an injured worker could do, rather than what they could not do in the workplace. This study evaluated the utility of the new certificate of capacity and found that all stakeholders felt it was a significant improvement on the previous one. Compensation agents and employers had the most positive reaction, appreciating the shift in focus to a worker’s capabilities. At the time of the evaluation, GPs were ambivalent about the new certificate and were inclined to still certify based on incapacity and provide little information on functional capacity. This suggests that there is still further support needed for GPs to reorient their clinical practices towards assessing capacity rather than incapacity. All stakeholders sought further guidance on mental health capacity and suggested that the certificate needed to be incorporated into existing medical software.
Date published: December 2013
FIT to work: General practitioners facilitating injured workers return to work Research Report
Between 2003 and 2010 in Victoria, an increasing number of sickness certificates were issued by General Practitioners. The certificates were also being issued for increasing amounts of time, with mental health claims associated with the longest periods off work. This study examined the attitudes and understanding of General Practitioners’ return to work practices and explored the possible factors related to the increases in the issuing of sickness certificates.
Date published: August 2013
The knowledge, skills, and behaviours required by supervisors to facilitate a return to work after a mental disorder or musculoskeletal injury Research Report
Eleven key competencies were identified as required for supervisors to facilitate the return to work of their injured workers. To develop these competencies, implementation of face-to-face training for supervisors was recommended, to allow supervisors to effectively assist employees to return to work. The study also highlighted a need to strengthen employers’ understanding of the key role of supervisors in return to work and that the employer and supervisor should work closely with rehabilitation teams to support return to work.
Date published: June 2013
Women’s injuries and return to work - the social context Research Report
This project explored why women with children took longer to return to work than any other demographic group. The study identified that many injured women push themselves to continue to care for their children and perform household duties despite their injuries. The claims system did not appear to account for the fact that injured people may still be required to give care while they themselves are receiving care for their injuries. The factor was related to poorer return to work outcomes for women with children, compared to others with similar injuries.
Date published: May 2013
Return to work and occupational illness and injury rehabilitation Evidence Review
This evidence review examined the link between return to work and injury/illness recovery, specifically, the impact of return to work on the speed and extent of recovery. The review found evidence to support health benefits of return to work. For work-related musculoskeletal injuries, the evidence indicated that early mobilisation associated with return to work programs can promote accelerated recovery and resumption of normal activities. For other work-related conditions, such as mental health and psychological disorders, the evidence was less clear, but there were early indications that well-designed programs could improve outcomes.
Date published: May 2013
Improving return to work coordinator training Research Report
This project engaged with stakeholders to determine if the existing training package delivered for return to work coordinators was evidence based and met the needs at the time. Several areas for improvement were identified, including the introduction of a basics course/refresher course as an update to the two-day training program, updating associated program resources, providing more on-line support, and developing an advanced course for return to work specialists.
Date published: January 2013
Annotated bibliography: return to work and managing compensable injury claims Evidence Review
An annotated bibliographies of reference materials related to the the topics of strategic return to work/community and managing compensable injury claims.
Date published: October 2012
Use of motivational interviewing by non-clinicians in non-clinical settings Evidence Review
This review examined the available evidence on the application of motivational interviewing techniques by non-clinicians, and in non-clinical settings to determine the feasibility of adapting the techniques for use in a return to work setting. Motivational interviewing is a powerful technique previously shown to elicit behaviour change. The evidence supported that non-clinicians could effectively use motivational interviewing techniques provided they had the right training and ongoing support.
Date published: August 2012
The impact of mediation on workplace relationship conflict and return to work outcomes Evidence Review
Workplace-based interpersonal conflict can result in damaged relationships, loss of productivity, diminished job satisfaction and claims for psychological injury. This review examined the available evidence on the effectiveness of mediation conducted by a third party to help resolve workplace conflict and assist claimants to return to work. Mediation can be an effective method of resolving psychological injury claims due to workplace interpersonal conflict.
Date published: May 2012