Vocational rehabilitation refers to programs that seek to return disabled or injured individuals to their optimal physical, mental, social, vocational, and economic ability. In a legal sense, vocational rehabilitation is a workers’ compensation benefit, which involves programs designed to help workers who have become physically or mentally disabled and who can no longer hold the same jobs they had prior to their disabilities.
There are many cases in which Gerard Malouf and Partners have dealt with assisting the individual worker to retain their current role with reduced/restricted duties and allow for return to work plans so that they may return back to the role that they were involved with prior to the injury.
The purpose of vocational rehabilitation programs is to aid the disabled in receiving training for new occupations, locating jobs, retaining jobs, and building permanent careers.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (NSW) requires that employers comply with all occupational health, safety, workers’ compensation, injury management and rehabilitation obligations. The Act enforces a general duty of care on employers to:
- provide and maintain safe systems of work
- make arrangements for ensuring the safe use, handling, storage of equipment and substances, and
- provide necessary information, instruction, training and supervision.
The Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act (NSW) established a system for the management of work-related injuries of employees in NSW. The Act requires amongst other things that every employer to:
- take out and maintain a workers’ compensation insurance policy covering all of their workers
- notify the insurer of significant injuries within 48 hours
- send injured workers’ compensation claims to the insurer within seven days
- comply with the injury management plan developed by the insurer, and
- assist injured workers to return to work safely at the earliest time following a workplace injury.
The Act requires employees to:
- take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons at their place of work, and those who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work
- cooperate with any requirement imposed in the interests of health, safety and welfare by the employer or any other person who is authorised to do so under the Act(s)
- tell their employer of any injury as soon as possible
- attend medical and rehabilitation assessments
- provide accurate information about any aspect of their workers’ compensation claim, and
- be actively involved in their return to work plan.
The role of service providers
Service providers are responsible for the management of vocational rehabilitation services to companies who’s role it is to provide a planned and systematic approach to OHS Management and understand the needs of the organisation and the employee.
It is important that an OHS management system or plan is fully documented and clearly communicated to people in the organisation. It should cover the way everyone is expected to work safely, the way that the enterprise will ensure its workers and service providers work safely and the way they intend to improve their practices over time. This will also entail defining roles, duties and responsibilities so that everyone knows what they have to do, when and in what circumstances.
Benefits of Rehabilitation
There are many reason and benefits for the application of vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation has existed as a tool for both cost reduction and empowerment. By re-training employees to fit into the organisation can be a benefit for the employee and for the employer.
There are social advantages of vocationally rehabilitating employees who have physical or mental impairments as this promotes a good-will within the company and no feelings of angst and dislike.
The cost of hiring a new employee is far greater than just a salary, there are other costs of ensuring that processes are understood and there a large gap in the time where the position may remain unfilled as well as opportunity costs of not having the work completed in a timely manner.
Vocational rehabilitation can help solve other workplace dilemmas as well. Rehabilitation can be a solution to problems of high employee turnover and a dwindling labour market. By tapping into the largely neglected supply of workers with disabilities there are many benefits to the employer.
Technological innovations have further promoted placement of rehabilitated employees. There are many devices and tools that can ease the transition to work, including voice synthesizers, adapters for people with impaired mobility, and voice-activated computers.
Disabled workers are not typically expensive or difficult to accommodate and due to the great number of potential candidates it is quite easy to find suitable candidates.
In addition to the potential bottom-line benefits of vocational rehabilitation, such programs can promote positive employee relations. Communicating the benefits of the program, keeping in contact with workers on disability leave, and establishing light- and alternate-duty occupations can help show all employees that they are valued contributors to a business.
By keeping employees in light duties working at their place of employment also affects the workers compensation premium and allows the worker to feel safe and when they are prepared can return to full duties.
By providing an individualised written rehabilitation program, counselling and guidance, physical and mental restoration, training, job placement, and postemployment services can allow employees to return to similar or new pre-injury duties.
Counselling and guidance are ongoing aspects of vocational rehabilitation. Physical and mental restoration works to alleviate the physical or mental conditions that impede a client’s fullest potential functioning. This step may include medical, physical, therapeutic treatment, occupational or communication therapy; and psychiatry.
Service providers are required to have a planned and systematic approach to OHS&R management.
Vocational training relates to the development of specific job skills, usually at TAFE or community colleges and universities, rehabilitation facilities, sheltered workshops, and apprenticeship programs, or on the job.
Job placement often entails cooperation between the vocational rehabilitation agency and the potential employer, including modification of a job and/or the work environment.
Placement is not the end of the vocational rehabilitation road. Some clients require post-employment services such as continued counselling, supplementary training, health services, assistance with transportation, or other rehabilitation services.
Vocational Rehabilitation is in itself a practical and positive process with benefits to all users of the system. To ensure that employers comply with the law and the rights of the individual are upheld. Gerard Malouf and Partners ensure these rights are enforced and the employer does not try and undercut the rights of the injured worker.
In conclusion there are many benefits both to the employer and to the employee for Vocational Programs or as primarily known return to work programs. In NSW there is legislation in place for companies of various sizes require a return to work coordinator who responsibility to provide services to employees who have been injured at work. Often rehabilitation programs are run by the Human Resources department of a company who are familiar with the employees and their needs.
Benefits to employees include a consistent plan of returning to work, developing a sense of worth and purpose and value to the organisation which builds a company reputation. This is made possible through the use of treatment providers and counsellors who remain in contact with the injured employee to help them return to work.
There are financial benefits to employers to retain staff and return them back to work in an appropriate period of time dependant on their injuries.
Sometimes it is not possible to return to pre-injury duties and through proper communications and effort it is possible to re-train or re-organise a role so that an employee can return to work on light duties or different role within the organisation. If it is not possible to return to the same organisation, steps can be made to place the employee in vocational training programs through university or technical colleges as to develop a new skill or ability.
By assisting the employee into future employment can reduce insurance payments as well as make full use of the available resources to the company especially in times of tight labour markets.
Gerard Malouf and Partners are a leading specialist in the personal injury and have constant contact with various service providers including rehabilitation specialists, pain management clinics and various agencies that assist employees finding alternative employment as well as developing new careers within existing frameworks.
At Gerard Malouf and Partners we strive to exceed your expectations by developing strong ties with employers and treatment providers to assist in the rehabilitation process.