Failure to return to work – what’s behind it?


Referring back to our article “SafeWork Australia: no improvement in our national return-to-work rates for the past 15 years” in which a recently released report by SafeWork Australia shows that there has been no improvement in our national return-to-work rates for the past 15 years, despite substantial growth in the international body of evidence about what works and what doesn’t in returning injured workers to work, researchers – such as The Institute for Safety Compensation and Research (ISCRR) at Monash University- are wondering what lies behind our failure to return more injured workers to work.

Failure to return to work – what’s behind it?

The SafeWork Australia (the federal government agency with oversight of our workers compensation systems) yearly report summarised the major findings of a survey of injured/ ill workers.

Summary of the report

Last year, Western Australia, New South Wales and Comcare (the federal government workers’ compensation scheme) were the best performers with 80% of injured workers back at work. In South Australia the figure was 70%. In Queensland 75%. Victoria was one of the worst performers, following which WorkSafe Victoria has of course put return-to-work in its list of priorities in its recently released five year strategy. This poor return to work rate is despite considerable improvements in prevention of workplace injuries, and a reduction in the number of injured workers.

Minister Bill Shorten also recently announced plans to make Comcare, one of the better performing workcover schemes in this year’s survey, a best practice model for workplace rehabilitation and return-to-work.

For more information and results of the latest WorkSafe Australia return to work survey, please refer to SafeWork Australia: no improvement in our national return-to-work rates for the past 15 years” or the actual report by SafeWork Australia

The variation between the various states’ (and schemes) return to work performances suggests that there is at least some room for improvement, particularly in the states with the poorest results.

What lies behind of our failure to return injured workers to work?

So, the question is, while we have become much better at preventing workplace injuries, why are we clearly no better at helping injured workers back to work?

As we posted under our previous article “SafeWork Australia: no improvement in our national return-to-work rates for the past 15 years

When it comes to returning injured workers back into the workplace, “researchers” seem to conveniently disregard that many seriously injured workers are routinely forced back to work, at gunpoint, by the actions of hostile and bonus-greedy insurance companies, only to be more severely re-injured; and that too many employers simply chose to sack their injured workers, rather than help them return to suitable work, preferring to , for example, save $200 on ergonomic aids.

Finding another job when you have been injured (workcover claim history), and sacked, is extremely difficult for most injured folks, as it often opens up an issue of “liability”. Take for example below’s picture and story. The man wrote “no Workcover claims”. What does that tell you?


“Researchers” also routinely blame the injured worker, or their treating doctors  for not returning to work, while conveniently omitting that insurance companies will for example routinely stall, delay or deny vocational rehabilitation and retraining to seriously injured folks, leaving them dependent on the public purse for survival.

And, lets not even go to the harsh reality that so many injured workers are denied prompt medical care/treatment by the insurance companies…

What this “research” or “survey” really implies, in our humble opinion, is that the extremely adversarial SSS (stall, starve, then settle)  modus operandi used by insurance companies of literally gas-lighting injured workers, causing them extreme anguish, despair and frustration simply does NOT work!

Whilst researching an answer for our poor return-to-work rates, we came across an article posted on The Conversation, titled “What’s behind our failure to return more injured people to work?“, posted by Dr Alex Collie, Chief Research Officer, Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University. More importantly and interestingly quite a few medical practitioners and advocates for injured workers have shared their wonderful thoughts, including Dr John Quinter, Soula Mantalvanos and Rosemary Ferguson McKenzie, who ought to be commended.

Below are the comments posted on the article

Dr John Quintner

Over the last 15 or so years, we have indeed been quite innovative. Here is an incomplete list of such innovations:

1. We have abolished the Court system which, although expensive, did provide an opportunity for the cross-examination of self-styled medical experts whose opinions did not necessarily accord with the current knowledge and/or evidence base. Yet insurers welcome their opinions with open arms and deep pockets!

2. We have moved from a system where “disability” was being assessed to one of “impairment” assessment. Along the way, we have allowed work-related psychological/psychiatric conditions to be re-badged as ratable “impairments” using a system that really assesses “disability”.

3. We have adopted into Law various editions of the AMA (US) Guides to the Assessment of Permanent Impairment (but conveniently omitted the Chapter on Chronic Pain) and blatantly ignored the caveat about monetary awards that is contained in the Introductory Chapter.

4. We have provided gainful employment to so many “independent” medical examiners, at least some of whom have long since retired from performing work within their field of medicine.

5. Finally, we have reinforced the stigmatization of injured workers who are the recipients of compensation payments. Many of them fall into the category of chronic pain sufferers. Telling them “Work is good for you” was the ultimate insult.

The above comments are of course entirely biased by my long-held view that our systems of compensation for work-related injury have long since passed their “use by” date. They are probably performing as well as can be expected, given the constraints that they impose upon the key players involved in the systems.

Geoffrey Campbell

General Practitioner

In reply to John Quintner
How about a double blind randomized controlled trial where the alleged ‘independent’ medical examiners don’t know whether they are being paid by the insurer/employer or the injured worker?

Null hypothesis: there is no bias in the reports relating to who is paying.

Chances of the null hypothesis being overturned ………..

John Quintner

In reply to Geoffrey Campbell

Alex, the results of such a study would never see the light of day. There are sufficient safeguards built into the system to ensure bias towards the injured worker does not occur. The insurance claims clerks keep a close eye on the “independent” medicos to ensure that they do not stray very far from that which is tabulated in the Guides. The Panopticon designed by Jeremy Bentham comes to mind. Everyone behaves as if they are being watched. Of course this scenario includes the injured worker.

Michael Brown

Professional, academic, company director

Fewer then 10% of workers compensation claims arise from traumatic injuries, so safer workplaces haven’t really had much impact. There has been an explosion in claims for mental illness (stress), and the ageing workforce has led to more and more age-influenced musculoskeletal conditions. The main challenge would appear to be separating genuine occupational health and safety issues from industrial relations, work performance, and simple personality clashes in the workplace.

John Quintner

In reply to Michael Brown

@ Michael. Have you any practical suggestions as to how such a separation can ever be achieved? Sounds to me like you are trying to reinforce the body/mind dichotomy that may be fashionable in medico-legal parlance but is no longer sustainable, either scientifically or philosophically. We now have evidence that our evolutionarily conserved stress response systems can be activated by physical and/or psychological stressors.

By the way, what exactly do you mean by “age-influenced musculo-skeletal conditions”? Are you referring to the old “furphy” of spinal degeneration, which inevitably finds its way into the reports of many medico-legal examiners?

Bradley Partridge

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Public Health at University of Queensland

What about when the workplace is an AFL or NRL club and the injured worker is a footballer?

There are procedures for returning injured people back to play after suffering head injuries in those contexts. For example, concussed players are required to undergo computerised neuropsychological testing with the CogState/Axon product before they are allowed to return to play.

Interestingly, very few players who suffer a concussion miss the following week’s game…

Dr Alex Collie

Chief Research Officer, Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University
In reply to Bradley Partridge

Hi Bradley. Interesting question. I have thought a little bit about this. I was involved in the development of the cognitive tests you mention earlier in my reserch career.

Certainly the current return to play guidelines for elite sport are quite different to return to work guidelines for your average injured worker.

To my knowledge, return to play guidelines take a predominately biomedical approach. So physical recovery is the trigger for return. In contrast, return to work guidlines are more broadly focussed and consider the psychological and social aspects of recovery. This is the basis for most such guidelines advocating return to work before full physical recovery, because an earlier return can have other benefits and can aid recovery.

Of course there is much more to being an elite sportsperson than playing, but I have often wondered to what extent our elite sporting teams differentiate between return to play and return to work, and if they approach the two issues differently.

Do you know?

Bradley Partridge

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Public Health at University of Queensland
In reply to Alex Collie

Thanks Alex – would certainly be interesting to probe the views of players, coaches, team doctors and administrators about this!

Daniel Goldberg has written an interesting article exploring the NFL’s approach to concussion management within the broader context of occupational health in the US, particularly in regards to conflicts of interest. See Goldberg (2008) HEC Forum, 20(4) 337-355.

John Quintner

In reply to Alex Collie

@ Alex. With respect, the “average injured worker” does not exist. Do you have a certain stereotype in mind?

I do hope your statement that “return to play” guidelines take a predominantly biomedical approach when compared with “return to work guidelines” is incorrect. Any team that does not emphasise the psycho-socio-cultural aspects of the rehabilitation of its injured players is doing them a grave disservice.

Be that as it may, in my experience the emphasis in workers’ compensation systems is too heavily biased towards the biomedical aspect of treatment, often to the detriment of injured workers.

Alex Collie

Chief Research Officer, Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University
In reply to John Quintner

Hi John. No stereotypes in mind. Just an oversimplification of the diverse range of people that have workplace injuries and illnesses. Thanks for picking me up on it.

Bradley thanks for the reference. I will read with interest. Alex.

John Quintner

In reply to Alex Collie

@ Alex. So the question you raised at the beginning of this important conversation can now be replaced by another question – “Is it possible for the Australian compensation authorities to incorporate the Canadian seven ‘principles’ for successful return to work in the current systems of workers’ compensation?” To have tried to turn the Titanic around before it hit the iceberg would have constituted a task of similar magnitude!

Michael Guy

Clinical Psychologist

My understanding and experience is that insurers are much more focused on evidence based treatments than they were ten years ago. They mainly approve evidence based treatments. When treatment does not have an outcome they cease approval and payment for it. The reduction of lump sum payments has also reduced the interference of secondary gain so clients are more motivated for treatment outcomes.

You have not provided any international comparison with return to work rates or injury rates. Doing so would provide more valid criticism of Australian practices or validation that we are actually doing something right.

With a large reduction in accident rates but no change in the percentage remaining out of work, the absolute number has reduced and so has the absolute number that have not returned to work. To interpret this negatively is strange. It is in fact a positive outcome.

soula mantalvanos

I’m not sure where to start with my comment as WorkCover’s system has failed me in so many ways. Having Chronic Pain I copped the brunt of this primitive system. How can it assess ‘return to work’ when there aren’t even any basic levels of communication or respect between the Agent and the injured worker? The system lacks the ability to understand many injuries therefore treatments, and that’s no surprise when their aims are structured around their ‘current’ Act 1985. If we want to look at this another way, perhaps they’re actually ahead of their time now if 1985 is all they’re aiming for. What are we expecting when the aim is to meet legislation so passed its use by?

It’s taken me almost 7 years to get myself to some level of function. It took me 4.5 years to find a diagnosis, no thanks to the system and since then they’ve ignored anything to do with ‘Pudendal Neuralgia’, a pelvic chronic pain I have. They didn’t however ignore the risk I took of a home/work setup undertaken recently in hope of creating some normality for myself, and my capacity of 9 hours a week. They immediately withdrew all weekly payments and will not even think about part payments unless I can get to 15 hours a week. I’m left with $0 weekly payments, $0 medical assistance (and that’s been years now), and of course my pelvic pain brings a total of 0% impairment as John has so clearly outlined.

The agenda is clarified at the very beginning of a worker’s claim… and it took me years to realise this, but the WorkCover system’s approach is ‘an injured worker is guilty until they can prove their innocence’ which is putrid. What chance do we have then?

One other thing that I wonder, is the survey counting injured workers who don’t have the ability or capacity to battle them (and this is what you need to be able to do, battle) and have been successfully intimidated and squashed by the sytem? When you don’t get your form in, are you assumed as having returned to work? And it would be just like WorkSafe Agents to give themselves a big tick there.

Worksafe’s hellish antics are documented on my website:

John Quintner

In reply to soula mantalvanos

@ Soula. The workers’ compensation systems that are in place today seem to me to have reverted to those that were appropriate to factory work in the late-19th century. We now use elaborate Tables of Maims to determine the monetary worth of an impaired man (or woman).

Inter-disciplinary rehabilitation of injured workers is rarely funded and, as a consequence, treatment tends to be fragmented and usually a waste of time and money for long-term injured workers. Why do insurers continue to fund treatment that has been shown not to work?

In your particular case, I understand that the Independent Medical Examiners failed to make a proper diagnosis of your condition which, as you know, is clearly listed in the AMA (US) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Because the system depends upon medical practitioners making accurate diagnoses, it has indeed failed you, as it has many others with chronically painful conditions that developed in the context of their employment.

My long clinical experience as a rheumatologist and pain physician allows me to draw attention to the “linguistic bewilderment” that characterizes the landscape of chronic pain.

Diagnoses such as Chronic Pain Syndrome, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia Syndrome, Non-specific low back pain etc. exemplify such bewilderment.

Finally, the fact that there has been little in the way of meaningful contributions to this Conversation makes me wonder whether the current workers’ compensation systems are viable, or whether we are seeing them gradually implode under the weight of their own red tape. Over to you, Alex.

Geoffrey Harold Sherrington


Q. What’s behind our failure to reyurn more injured people to work?
A. A desire to return less injured people to work.

John Quintner

In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

@ Geoffrey. Is this attitude a reflection on our society? If so, Alex has his answer.

Rosemary McKenzie-FergusonWork Injured Resource Connection

I read this article with interest and it created a smile because I know the information it contains is correct. Well it is correct as far as the workers compensation industry goes. And then there is the work that goes on at the Centre that I started, there you will find injured workers engaged in rebuilding themselves because the workers compensation system failed them. You will find a lady in an electric wheelchair who travels 2hrs one way to spend 3hrs at the Centre once a week, You will find a lady in an electric wheelchair who travels 2hrs one way to spend 3hrs at the Centre once a week, you will find that when this lady started to come to the Centre she had no dreams no hope no vision, that is not you will find now. You will hear something odd at the Centre, you will hear laughter, I can think of no other place in the workers compensation industry where laughter is a normal part of it.

My work at the Centre is not recognised by the workers compensation industry, in truth I have no status at all within the workers compensation industry, yet I have people who were once on the scrap heap of humanity either returned to meaningful engagement or on their way back.

I don’t expect anyone to be interested in what is going on at the Centre, because there is no formal written concepts, no peer reviews (sadly I don’t have any peers)
What I do have is the belief that when people are given the opportunity and the workers compensation system is pushed aside, everything is possible and miracles truly do happen.

Yours in service


soula mantalvanos

In reply to Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

Rosemary I’d love to hear more about your services and your Centre so I can add your details to my website ( Workers compensation can recognise you but I’d say there might have to be a $$$ incentive!

Heard of this group?

So glad to hear people like you are out there Rosemary. Please come forward anyone else, injured workers need you!

Marie Wunsch

Hi Alex, Thank you for your article. If the things that John Quintner has said are correct then the prospect of becoming chronically impaired and unable to work because of a work injury is very scary. I read the Conversation because it helps me feel less excluded from complex issues such as these which hang over every working person’s life. I notice on your bio details that you have published 80 papers so you obviously have strident or at least very well shaped views on this subject.
1. What sort of innovations are you in favour of?
2. Could you please either demolish or comment on each of the points that John Quintner had made so that us readers can begin to get some kind of handle on what is going on in this area.
Thank you.

John Quintner

In reply to Marie Wunsch

Hi Marie, I too would appreciate reading a response from Alex to my deliberately provocative opinions. Those contributed by Rosemary and Soula only serve to reinforce my conclusion that our current systems of Workers’ Compensation tend to dehumanize injured workers.

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

Thank you to the people who have connected to me via LinkedIn as a result of my comments to this article.

You are correct John the workers compensation system destroys the humanity of injured workers reducing them to little more than computer generated file numbers.
I have attended many case conference over the years where the industry people have spoken around and in front of the injured workers as though the injured worker was not even in the room.

But there is hope on the horizon, the Centre is returning back to the people who come there a belief in self and a belief in all that is possible when the workers compensation system is pushed out of the way.

Marie Wunsch

In reply to Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

Hi again Alex – regarding the research program being planned by The Institute for Safety Compensation and Research (ISCRR). Since you are the chief research officer for this organisation could you please explain to us readers who took the time to read your article in The Conversation, the thinking around how the trials will be constructed.
Will the net be cast widely, fearlessly seeking contributions from a wide cross section of experts in the medical community?
How will you guard against the perception that the trials could be constrained by the interests of your sponsors? What measures will you put in place to help reassure the public that this is not the case?

John Quintner
In reply to Marie Wunsch

@ Marie. The Governance of ISCRR does not appear to include a consumer representative at any level. They need someone of Rosemary’s calibre to ensure that all interests are properly represented in research being undertaken to improve return to work rates of injured workers.

Alex Collie

Chief Research Officer, Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University
In reply to Marie Wunsch

Hello Rosemary, Marie and John,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. They give an insight into some of the negative consequences of workers compensation processes. There is a body of research evidence which supports your experiences. Much of this is qualitative, interview based research with injured people who have longer term and complex journeys of recovery. One of our PhD students at ISCRR has recently completed a review of this international research and submitted it for publication. I would be happy to share it once it is published, or discuss it with you in advance. We are also conducting similar studies in the Victorian injury compensation systems, and this is one way that a research organisation like ISCRR can contribute meaningfully to these issues – by carefully collecting, analysing and presenting the evidence to those involved in return to work and compensation processes.

I should also say that the same research describes the positive consequences of compensation, such as greater access to healthcare.

Regarding consumer representation – we make an effort to involve ‘end users’ of our research early and throughout the research process. For instance, we recently completed a study looking at the role of general practitioners in return to work. This project had a steering committee that included general practitioners, injured persons who had experience of the injury compensation schemes, industry/employer representatives and representatives of the compensation system, as well as our research team. The committee helped to define the research direction and interpret results. I think this approach is one that can lead to productive outcomes and is a good example of the power of a research approach to bring those affected together to discuss important issues. There are other similar examples I could mention.

Rosemary I would be happy and very willing to talk with you. I think we can learn a lot from lived experience and what works in practice. I’ve contacted you separately to continue the conversation. Thanks for offering your input.

Marie the return to work studies I mention in the article may take a number of forms. We have some strong leads from a literature review of RTW interventions that is just being finalised. This review is suggesting that interventions that seek to improve communication and cooperation of those involved in the rtw process may be effective. i recognise the challenges of such approaches in this field, where there are some strongly held views. Of course a big issue for any research organisation is implementing such trials, and in this field that requires the support of many different partners. Another reason that we support engagement with consumers and other end users early in the research process.

Finally, regarding the independence of our research. iSCRR is part of monash university and as such is subject to the same academic standards as any other academic group. We assert the independence of our methods and our opinions. For example I refer you to our publication policy, available on our website, which clearly states the independence of the researchers opinion in research output produced by ISCRR. It also identifies some of the challenges involved in conducting research using non traditional models where we actively seek involvement of end users, including our funders, in the research process.

Thanks to you all for raising such important issues. I’m pleased the article prompted a thoughtful discussion.


John Quintner
In reply to Alex Collie

@ Alex. I appreciate your response and hope that the October Conference (Australasian Compensation Health Forum 2013) sheds new light upon how best to tackle the many vexed issues that have been raised in this conversation.

In Western Australia, our inter-disciplinary State-wide Pain Planning Group has so far failed to engage the relevant compensation authorities (WorkCover WA) with the aim of improving the situation for long-term injured workers in the system. Your State is to be congratulated for ensuring that a meaningful dialogue is taking place through the lens of Research.

I see that Professor Nortin Hadler will be addressing your Conference. He is indeed a very eloquent, knowledgeable and entertaining speaker but, at least in my opinion, his views on the pathophysiology of chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes that can arise in the context of employment are somewhat outdated. The science of Pain Medicine has advanced since the time of Kafka.

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

John as you know ISCRR is hardly likely to make a phone call to me or any other injured worker representative.

ISCRR and indeed any safety organization simply do not want to hear let alone understand what went wrong in the first place, they also do not want to hear what needs to be done in the workplace to prevent the same or similar injury from happening again, nor do they want to hear what injured workers lives are like.

I have no way of knowing as to why these people don’t want to know other than they don’t know how to admit they got certain things wrong, or the funding they receive could be at real risk if they admitted their processes are wrong.

Yes I would be willing to work with ISCRR, but as I said it is highly unlikely that they will call.

John Quintner
In reply to Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

@ Rosemary. Alex appears to have left The Conversation. But I am sure he would like you to know that ISCRR are inviting people in the community to join their “think tank” and contribute in this way.

To join the Think Tank and receive regular eUpdates, email

P.S. Professor Niki Ellis, the CEO of ISCRR, has been talking to some enlightened occupational physicians (yes, they do exist!) and is well aware that the various systems do not always deliver the best outcomes for injured workers.

soula mantalvanos
In reply to John Quintner

thumbs-upWell I don’t qualify for ‘Think Tank’ being an injured worker but I would call myself an advocate for health and disability. I’m writing to them right now…. first suggestion up: Talk to injured workers (well that’s if I can get on the list!).

soula mantalvanos
In reply to Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

It’s clear to me Rosemary: the emphasis is on saving Gov money and making commissions, and that will obviously come before helping injured workers…

It’s such a mess, who’s going to volunteer and put their hand up first and call it as it is: shonky!?

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson
In reply to soula mantalvanos

Soula I am not going to put my hand up and say it is “shonky” however I will and have put my hand up to say that there is a better way and then when no one listened, I took my mentors advice, I just set about “fixing it”.

There is a lot of research material that looks really good as pye graphs but when put into practice discovers very quickly that concepts don’t work for every injured worker and sometimes the concepts don’t work at all.
What does work is taking the time to understand who the person is, what direction they want to go in and then putting in the process to allow that to happen.
I know that sounds simple, but when an injured worker arrives at the Centre, the first thing I have to do is re-build the persons belief in themselves after the workers compensation “mill” has shattered their hopes and dreams and removed all concepts of planning for life post workers compensation.

soula mantalvanos
In reply to Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

Your approach is incredible Rosemary! Yes, it’s simple and it’s bewildering that we’re ‘thanking’ you for it. Just goes to show how poor the situation is.

Alex, have you nothing to say to an injured worker? I can’t see how this situation will improve without speaking to any of us and I mean having a conversation and asking question without the limited multiple choice answers. You’re not going to get the full story that way…
about 1 month ago report

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

Thank you for this information John, I have had a look at the advisor group, it is all Victorian based, lead by Dr Alex Collie -however I am Adelaide based, thus I truly doubt that ISCRR would be interested in contacting me or me contacting them. Pity really because it is a challenge worthy of the endeavour.


Source: What’s behind our failure to return more injured people to work?


What are YOUR thoughts on why injured workers fail to return to work?


24 Responses to “Failure to return to work – what’s behind it?”

  1. There are also flaws in the medical system. Gp’s revolve around the medical model where you give them a symptom…they give you a pill for it. GP’s are very much I am doctor I know best

    However psychologist and psychiatrist tend to work around the recovery model especially with matters of mental health and every single case is different. With mental illness the client is given a lot more control of their treatment.

    How many times has a doctor just told you what to do…how many times has a psychiatrist asked you what you want to happen.

    GP’s and psych very rarely see eye to eye based on the different teachings.

    going back to study while on my injury has helped me understand quite a bit 😛

  2. Allianz is behind my not returning to work

    • WorkCover and the insurers do not care about rehabilitation or returning you to work!

      Their only motivation is getting you off their books by fair means or foul. And foul means is their preferred method

      • Fu by fair means mmmmm allianz wouldnt know what fair is but your right get em off the books with the lies and bullshit .

  3. i am relieved to be reading all of this to know i am not alone…. this system is shocking! I’ve had a back injury for the last five years (three of which i spent fighting in court…and won…and am now again in court!) and more recently a psychiatric injury which whilst approved, i am fighting tooth and nail to get the recovery, rest and treatment i need. Within the first x2 days of my claim being accepted they had already arranged a rehab provided to “return me to work” and wanted a “case conference” which is what was best for me. Yet the person who caused the psychological injury is still in the workplace. But they want to return me to the same environment but different floor? AGAIN, the person who did this is STILL THERE. Could someone explain to me how this doesn’t put me at risk? It seems no-one really cares that i can barely leave the house at the moment let alone consider going to a NEW JOB let alone the SAME employer. All they do is push push push.

    It makes it worse because my doctor doesn’t understand work cover and is male (please no offence to any males here) and doesnt get why i just cant get over the bullying and abuse by another male and just work on a different floor. My psychologist gets it but they work in the same practice and dont seem to communicate effectively. Does anyone know of any clinics with a more experienced and well rounded approach to actually helping and treating injured workers and working with them to return to either old job or a new job when they are cinically able, not just with a “risk it, try it and see” attitude? Can a psychiatrist issue workcover certs (since they are a doctor?). I am considering finding a psychiatrist who can deal with the whole lot in one. I’ve also looked at the Vic Rehab Centre as an outpatient to see their psychiatrists?

    Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas?

    • @backpsych101: sorry to hear about the issues you have with your GP, which is not unusual, knowing that many GPs actually refuse to see workcover victims, simply because of the extremely convoluted “system”, the harassment of the case manager(s), and the fact that they have to deal with an enormous amount of insane and useless paperwork, for which they don’t even get paid.
      The best advice is to get a GP who is familiar with the abusive and adversarial system, as well as having a psychologist (and/or psychiatrist) who is also experienced with the “system”. A psychiatrist can issue you with a workcover certificate, as can a psychologist.
      Assuming you are located in Victoria (Melbourne) we do have a list of a few super doctors, incl an awesome psychologist and psychiatrist. See

      We’ll be adding some more super docs, incl GP(s).

      Without such support it will be indeed very difficult to for example have a decent and safe return to work plan signed off (by your GP, Psychiatrist or even psychologist). After all it is your GP basically who is “God” when it comes to RTW, and it’s vital s/he has the correct and detailed information needed from your treating psychologist or psychiatrist to make a safe and wise decision.

      We also recommend you see a private psychiatrist (not a centre).

      • this information is amazing, thank you. I will do some more research today and will be back in contact. This website honestly has to save lives, i feel a lot better already!

  4. I agree with every single comment here, but I fear that no matter what we do, they will never give empowerment back to the injured worker. The front page of The Age today (9th Oct) has a story of a poor bullied teacher who is suing the Victorian Government for Negligence.($1.4 million). No mention of Workers Comp at all. I wish this hero all the success he can get because if he wins then it may give some hope to future injured workers. In my many years of working, I never saw Workers Compensation improve, it only ever got worse because the very reason it was set up was for employers not to face crippling punitive damages payouts and the trade off was that they would accept liability for all injuries. Over the years it has evolved to the state where injured workers are treated like chattel or worse, criminals. Maybe thinking outside the box like this man has done is another way to rectify what is becoming a human rights abuse system.

  5. Trinny you’ve struck on a really important point in raising the question of the importance of autonomy to the individual’s mental health. Personally I think it’s a key criteria for a system that really assists injured workers to recover and return to a productive and meaningful life.

    It’s not only completely missing in the Workover, it is actively sought out and eradicated. Injured workers are made to feel that their lives and their crucial health and employment decisions belong to the Case Managers. Every interaction we have with them is one of denial of our rights, or serious curtailment of them. This is false, the law actually gives us many entitlements while the Insurer’s spend their legal dollars actively trying to prevent our access to these rights. They will even use Conciliation to drive home their false assertions if the Conciliators and assistants are not on the ball in regard to the law.

  6. Rosemary has touched on a topic that is a pivoting part of this entire system. The lack of autonomy given to injured workers. How in case management meetings the conversations are around the injured worker. The behaviour is as if they were not in the room. There lies one problem. The ownership of the injury isn’t the workers. The system fails as the worker is not permitted to become involved in their care. Nor voice what is important to them and their needs.. They are told what is acceptable ( usually backed up by research ) and assessed by a claims manager. When the injured worker takes a stand to involve themselves in their care it is met with negativity. Why? All things are tabled. It works fine for cars but not for people. Any part of the wholistic primary health care and medical Heath care models have been taken from the control of the injured worker and placed in the hands of an insurance company. This type of health care model fails from the beginning

    • @Trinny O’Neill

      I agree with you 100%,but I believe it is all about control.

      To help people you, empower them. To crush them, you disempower them.

      Disempowered people with no perception of hope or a future just walk away – and that saves the system money.

      WorkCover is only about money,the injured are just annoying statistics on a page!

      Disgraceful? YES

    • Can we all get together and create one case against our Government? Any legal advisors out there???? I find it hard to believe we can’t do anything but tolerate this sort of behaviour.

      • Soula, I think in the future that will be our only option. I don’t think any injured worker would ever think legislation is going to improve their situation now. A huge class action would be wonderful, but you are right, where are the legal people who could help?

  7. @ workcovervictim

    This is a little of topic but have you heard of not going to conference due to the third party not being ready? We have already passed the alotted times according to the legislation. We should have sat for the meeting in July. Can the third party hold up proceedings between myself and Workcover( my employer ), my opoinion is they should not be able to affect my claim or stall it any longer. Just when you thought the stall tactics have finalised, they get to reset and start all over again. They sure now how to bump up the fees and lessen my payout. Can my lawyer demand we go to conference or are we at the mercy of the third party now? This seems unjust…

    • Hi @Shane Bloggs

      Stalling is a time honoured traditional practice of insurers and their legal teams.

      Just when everyone is ready for the conference you may get “we haven’t received that report as yet” – another postponement or “we require an updated assessment from Dr So & So” – another the appointment maybe 6 weeks in the future and another 3-4 weeks for the report etc

      The long and short of it is – yes they can!

      As an injured worker, some practitioners see us as an “asset”. We are the means to milk as much money out of the system. We get fuck all, but the lawyers, IMEs, Rehab providers etc just keep on earning the big bucks.

      All you and your lawyer can do is get them in a corner and keep moving in on them. They will have to run out of excuses eventually. Also the Commission takes a dim view of people wasting their time – that could ultimately be help later on.

      • @ FU_CGU

        Thank you for your reply, I find it sickening the way the lawyers( workcover) find ways to bump up the total in fees, to like you put it, to milk as much money out of the system.

        When one law firm sends another law firm a letter it is addressed dear collegues, does this mean they work together? Interesting

        It has just pondered to me that the workcover lawfirm have for many years asked the same questions in various shapes and forms to which they already know the answers too.

        They would have received all relevant information regarding complete names of persons employed by my employer and involved with the incident when they would have this information in the work cover investigation file completed the week of my incident.

        This sounds like milking the cash cow to me. And we the chronic pain sufferers and workcover blunder sufferers are accussed of being fraudsters.

        This shocking system needs to be exposed for the injured workers who suffer in daily pain and stress who resort to pain medications and anti- depressants to gain some normality or existance. These people look down on us like we are the criminals.

        • @Shane Bloggs
          I agree!

          Only those who have been in this system, or understanding loved ones and friends, know the full extent of the corruption, mismanagement and down right psychopathic behaviour of case managers, WorkCover and all their hangers on.

          May be I am paranoid, but I feel there will be changes made, not in the short term, but the system cost keeps increasing, a small reduction in claims made and less money paid to the injured – the insurers are running out of people to blame!

          • This is so true. I have never seen such a corrupt system. My case manager got to my solicitor so bad he called her a bitch to me for about 10 minutes so that he could vent. I think we need all of the law firms put together all of their resources and slam every decision anybody makes. I know this costs money but do it at no charge just to set precedents and then keep slamming them.

  8. @soula

    Bravo! Well said soula! I couldn’t agree more.

  9. Oh yes, I remember this conversation. It’s when i met the wonderful Rosemary and we began our collaboration on her brilliant new program for injured workers (you’ll all hear about it soon).

    But what i’d like to point out is how curious it felt that Alex Collie never responded to any of my comments. Here’s someone out to present some details about injured workers, and he couldn’t address me, like he did everyone else in this conversation. No wonder the system will never get anywhere, injured workers are never treated as equals in society. Once you’re injured, you’re seen as though you are ‘guilty of a crime’.

    It’s disgusting.

    And as for the ISCRR I joined their mailing list after this conversation. I left a comment and was contacted by someone asking how they could help. When I told them I wanted pain acknowledged within the WorkCover assessment system I never heard back again. And when their mailing list invited me to a forum where they were going to discuss ‘Injured persons experiences in compensation systems: research insights’ I asked if they had an email address where injured workers could submit questions to be answered if they could not attend the seminar… I didn’t hear back from anyone then either.

    Now there are more funds offered on the ISCRR for more surveys that can only ever be useless if the point is to raise questions to a broken system like: ‘why doesn’t this work?’ Of all the places to put the funds they put them in asking more questions about a broken system. Like that’s going to get anyone anywhere. We know what’s wrong with the system, it’s all here and on my site and in the screaming voices and dying ones of people that want to get better to life and back to work but are ignored.

    Wake up Australia! Your tax dollars are not being spent by injured workers but rather narrow minded twitts that see hard working Australians who hurt themselves as ‘average injured workers’.


    • @Soula – same here, when I first got in touch with the ISCRR hoping (against all odds) they would appreciate a “qualitative” body of evidence from injured workers as well as the numerous (quantitative) real stories shared on aworkcovervictimsdiary, the first and only thing they did was ensure they UNFOLLOWED our site! It is very clear to me that these ‘researchers’ are really not interested in the the very subjects they are “studying” = US! I have since long given up trying to offer our views and add to potential solutions for a better RTW outcome (etc).
      It is a shame, because it is indeed people like yourself, me (us), Rosemary and some very experienced and enlightened medical practitioners (who deal with injured workers every day) who could shed the most light on the very issue at hand.
      Together we could achieve miracles!

      workcovervictim October 8, 2013 at 6:55 am
  10. I am gob smacked by this, some wonderful explanations and some terrible ones. The problem is the system, a profit driven system with various interest groups gaining a lot and the actual injured worker getting very little. And frankly I am also disgusted by most employers as well, this group who whinge about injured workers, do very little about workplace safety and have the hide to sack people who were injured making profits for them. Add to that the FACT that their so called huge premiums are TAX DEDUCTABLE, makes me want to vomit. All the lies, all the corruption, all the greediness, feeding on the poor injured worker, most of whom have to beg to get any proper treatment for their injuries. And to add insult to injury, the repulsive suggestions by the media, business, government and some of the public, that all injured workers are somehow rorting the system, pretending to have mental illnesses to avoid work (oh yes it is real fun on WC, we all want to be on it) and never ever a mention of bosses not employing them. Return to work???? What work????