Non-work related injuries - an employer's role
While there can be more legal implications if an injury occurs at work, employers are not entirely off the hook if an employee were to sustain an injury or illness outside the workplace.
A non-work related injury/illness is one that has been suffered or sustained outside of the workplace and is independent of any functions relating to the individual's employment.
While these types of injuries don't happen in the workplace, they can potentially affect the employee's capacity to satisfy the full requirements of their role and impact the health, safety and welfare of the employee and their colleagues.
That's why it can still be necessary for employers to support the recovery and return to work of injured workers even in circumstances of non-work-related injury or illness.
The responsibility of employers
Under Australian Fair Work legislation, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of an injury or illness, including those that are non-work related. Employers also have an obligation to keep an injured or ill employee's position vacant during their period of absence.
There are exceptions, however. Suppose an employee is no longer able to perform their core responsibilities. In that case, an employer is not expected to keep the position vacant indefinitely or to implement adjustments to the employee's role that cause unjustifiable hardship to the business and other workers.
When an employee is ready and approved to return following a non-work-related injury/illness, an employer has a duty of care to provide appropriate assistance through a Return to Work (RTW) arrangement. Any choices made should be based on current medical advice from a qualified medical professional and will need to be communicated and discussed between management and the injured/ill employee.
The RTW arrangements must ensure the health and safety of the affected employee and all those in the workplace who may be impacted by the duties of the injured/ill worker.
Tips for employers
There is a lot to consider when managing the safe and effective return to work of an employee, particularly following more complicated non-work injuries/illness or those that require an extended recovery period.
Each situation is different and should therefore be approached accordingly. However, there are a few things employers can do to help assist an employee following a non-work-related injury:
- Keep in contact with the injured employee during their absence. All communication should be compassionate yet professional. This may help your employee feel cared about during an already difficult time but also allows an employer to get a rough idea of how the recovery is going and how injury management can be approached.
- Ensure that the employee is given appropriate and meaningful duties and assistance. Putting an injured/ill employee back into their previous role may injure them further or postpone a full recovery.
- Consider making changes to the workplace or hours
- Provide workplace support aids or modifications to assist the return to work
- Allow the injured/ill employee enough time to recover by developing a reasonable RTW plan with realistic timeframes
- Consider any restrictions or limitations to the role that will affect the employee's safe return to work. This may help to reveal any modifications or adjustments that need to be made.
- Foster a 24/7 safety mentality in the workplace - this encourages employees to put safety at the forefront of their minds even when they are not at work. This may help lead to fewer injuries, lower insurance premiums and a more productive workplace overall.
How Coverforce can help
Our experienced Coverforce Workplace Services (CWS) team can assist your business with embedding safe working processes and identifying risks and hazards in your workplace. Contact them directly on (02) 9098 5500 to find out more.
Your local Coverforce Insurance Broker can provide your business with sound risk advice and quality insurance cover to help prevent financial loss arising from workplace injury/illness. For personalised advice, find your local broker here or by calling 1 3000 COVER.
The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.
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