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Should my employer appoint a Return to Work Coordinator?

Workers Compensation Return to Work Coordinator

An important aspect of the Return to Work workers compensation scheme which became operational in July 2015 is the establishment of certified ‘Return to Work Coordinators’ (“RTW Coordinator”). The legislation mandates that South Australian businesses with 30 or more employees (either full-time, part-time or both) must appoint a RTW Coordinator.

It is abundantly clear that many, if not most businesses with in excess of 30 employees have not yet turned their minds to appointing a RTW Coordinator, and they are therefore breaching their requirements under the legislation.

This has been an understandable oversight.  The Return to Work scheme did not simply make some minor amendments to the previous law (the Workers Rehabilitation & Compensation Act 1986) but is a complete overhaul of the workers compensation system in South Australia. Businesses, employees, doctors and solicitors are still trying to come to terms with the significant changes, so it is no surprise that many businesses have not prioritised the appointment of a RTW Coordinator.

"South Australian businesses with 30 or more employees (either full-time, part-time or both) must appoint a RTW Coordinator."

Section 26 of the Return to Work Act 2014 indicates that a business can be fined up to $10,000 if they don’t comply with their obligations to appoint a RTW Coordinator.

The RTW Coordinator does not need to be an existing employee of the business; they can be appointed externally. This might be common in relation to businesses who have little understanding of the complexities of the RTW scheme, and would prefer to engage an expert as their RTW Coordinator. The RTW Coordinator can even be shared among other businesses.

The main functions and responsibilities of a RTW Coordinator is to support workers who injure themselves in the workplace, helping them remain in the workplace post-injury (ie, reduce their time away from work) and assisting with their expeditious return to work where possible.

In carrying out their duties, the RTW Coordinator will stay updated with the progress of injured workers, their recovery, and level of incapacity. Furthermore, they may also communicate with medical professionals and other experts in relation to the injury. The RTW Coordinator also plays a proactive role in creating and implementing recovery plans and working with the business to reduce workplace hazards to ensure that similar injuries are prevented.

Return to Work SA (formerly known as WorkCover) run free training courses for those who wish to become RTW Coordinators. The training is focussed on ensuring that RTW Coordinators have the tools to:

  • prepare workplaces (to reduce the risk of injuries);
  • understand what needs to occur if a worker is injured in the workplace;
  • effectively communicate with the injured worker, managers, Return to Work SA, medical professionals, etc; and
  • assist in the identification of barriers that are hindering the injured worker’s return to the workplace.

The training will also teach RTW Coordinators how to prepare Recovery / Return to Work Plans and also provide guidance regarding working with those who have suffered psychological injuries. Return to Work SA offers training either online (via modules) or a two day training course in person.

If you have a query regarding RTW Coordinators or other matters arising out of the RTW scheme, please don’t hesitate to get in touch directly with today’s blog writer, Michael Irvine.

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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