Rehabilitating injured workers or referring them to a rehab service as soon as possible following a work injury (or illness) is crucial, according to the authors of an Australian study of 95,470 injured workers. The report found that the average time from when an injury occurs to when return to work or rehabilitation support is sought is a whopping 90 weeks, or just under 2 years.
A Konekt Market Report studied 95,470 injured worker referrals to Konekt between the period ofJuly 2008 and June 2013.
Konekt’s head- Matt May- says the 90-week average is “really alarming“.
The report also found that Victoria and South Australia have the longest delay between injury and referral at 112 weeks, while Queensland has the shortest at 34 weeks.
Konekt states the following:
“Compare workplace injury to sporting injuries – if a professional sportsperson is injured, the help they receive is immediate”
“So why can’t it be the same for workers?”
Early referral to rehab means (more) successful return to work
The Konekt report states that of the 11,649 compensable referrals to Konekt to return an injured or ill worker to work, 94% of workers referred within the first 6 months after their injury successfully returned to their job.
This success rate dropped to 82% if the referral was made more than 1 year after the injury.
If the referral was made after 2 years, the success rate dropped to a low 68%.
This study highlights that employers (and therefore workcover insurers) should consider returning injured workers to work as soon as the injured worker is able, but provide the injured worker with proper rehab support. This is regardless of whether the injured worker has filed a workcover claim or not – the fact of the matter is that many companies / bosses are more reactive than proactive, and generally wait until a formal claim or complaint has been made before acting. How true!
The report also says
a “key factor in achieving successful return to work outcomes is the length of time the person has been ‘disabled’ due to their injury prior to being referred (to rehab services)”.
“As well as providing improved return to work outcomes, early referral results in a lower average rehabilitation service cost, with the average cost incurred per successful return to work being significantly lower.
“Early referrals also result in a decreased period of rehabilitation services.
More importantly, the report states:
“For compensable referrals this is particularly important, as research suggests that exposure to the compensation system, and specifically duration of exposure to the compensation system, has a negative impact, so the less time people spend in the system, the greater the likelihood of better health and return to work outcomes.”
How long did you have to wait to be referred to appropriate rehab services? Let us rephrase this: how many times did you have to beg your case manager for a referral to a rehab service provider to assist with your return to work? Was your boss proactive in helping you at work, e.g accommodating your workplace, buying you a couple of ergonomic tools, a better chair for your back perhaps? Do you feel you could have returned to work earlier, or could have stayed at work, had you been taken care off? Did you (also) aggravate your injury because of the lack of rehab support in the workplace?