Supporting an injured worker to return safely to work as quickly as possible makes good business sense.
Getting back to work can reduce the financial and emotional impact on a worker and their family. It can also be an important factor in helping them recover and return to normal life.
When the injured worker does return, an employer should ensure that they are given appropriate duties and assistance while they recover from the injury. This might include making reasonable adjustments to the workplace, although these should not cause the organisation unjustifiable hardship.
If an employee has a work-related injury, there may be an overlap between work health and safety legislation, workers compensation schemes and the Disability Discrimination Act.
Discrimination against an injured worker is against the law, regardless of whether the injury was sustained at work or outside the workplace. There are some limited exceptions and exemptions.
The employer will need to determine whether the employee can still perform the essential duties of the job – with assistance or adjustments, if required – before considering dismissal.
Example: An employee truck driver had a work-related injury which restricted the employee to lifting weights of no more than 30kg. The employee said they were able to carry out pre-injury duties with minor adjustments but was denied the option of returning to work because of the injury. This could be disability discrimination.