University of Queensand researcher Dr Venerina Johnston has been awarded a grant to research the skills and behaviours needed by supervisors to help workers return to work after injury or illness.
The grant is part of the Australia-wide $400,000 Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) 2012 Development Grants Program.
UQ researcher funded to assist return-to-work
Dr Johnston, of UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will be supported by Ms Kirsten Way, Dr Mary Wyatt, and Dr Bill Shaw.
The project focuses on workers returning to work after a mental disorder or musculoskeletal injury.
“The results will provide the first evidence base to develop a training program for supervisors that is specific to the Australian setting,” Dr Johnston said.
“Despite many endeavours, return-to-work rates have not improved across Australia over the past five years.
“Supervisors play a pivotal role in the return-to-work process and yet the specific knowledge, skills and behaviours supervisors require to assist this process have never been identified in the Australian setting.
“This research and the subsequent development of a training program will result in long-term benefits in terms of preventing work disability and reducing compensation costs.”
ISCRR CEO Professor Niki Ellis said that the development grants funded projects with the potential to deliver tangible benefits in the short term to ISCRR’s partners, WorkSafe Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission.
“By supporting smaller scale projects conducted over 12 months, the grants provide an important opportunity for investigators to initiate research that they see will make a difference in a relatively short period of time,” Professor Ellis said.
Return to work research, is it really necessary?
Well, let’s hope something positive comes from this study. Happy to be a guinea pig if its of any help.
With regards to my own return to work, well my last attempt was a nightmare, which resulted in me almost taking my own life.
I had been working full time in a senior management position, despite my crippling disability. I was due to undergo major surgery number 6 for gross instability of the shoulder, which was dislocating just about every day at work. My medical treaters, in particular my surgeon, had made numerous, written medical requests for fairly straight forward ergonomic surpport (aids) in the workplace and would actually not allow me to continue work without the ergomomic support in place. A last ditch attempt in writing was made to the Director of Health and Safety (and my boss) to no avail, and I was forced to continue work, full time in visible distress. The ergonomics were, between brackets requested way back in 2006, however multiple urgent, written requests were made during the last 6 months prior to my sixth surgery, to no avail. My boss had the guts to demand I postpone my surgery by a whopping three months as to complete a large project I was working on, and of course she promised in return to implement the necessary level of ergonomic support… bullsh*t. Anyway, I worked myself stupid up to one week before the surgery. I had a very good performance appraisal and during our “good-luck-for-your-surgery-lunch” my contract was renewed.
I underwent the major surgery. After about 5 to 6 weeks, I obtained a certificate of capacity from my surgeon, detailing the very same restrictions as prior to the surgery. I rang my boss and the return to work coordinator to inform them that I would return to work the following week. Yeah, right! I was NOT allowed to return to work, mate! Why not? The untrained RTW coordinator told me that the ergonmic needed to be in place before I could return, ha! Obviously I disagreed as there was no problem whatsoever with me working without medical requested ergonomic support prior to the surgery and, interestingly, that 50% of my job consisted of non-office work, so why was I at least not allowed to undertake that part of my job whilst awaiting for the required level of ergonomic support to be in place?
We are talking about ergonomic equipment which you can buy at Office Works here, stuff like an alternative mouse, an under-desk pull out tray, a chair with arm rests, a dictaphone, voice recognition software etc.
Well, guys, they started “implementing” the ergonomics in January. By the beginning of April things were still not in place , I kid you not (!), preventing my return to work. Mid April, I received a termination letter. How nice! After 10 years of loyal service and after having lost my arm due to their bloody stupidity (negligence). Thank you very much.
I had offered to purchase the ergonomics myself, I had offered to undertake the duties that did not involve computer work (and physical restrictions); for Christ’s sakes, they knew I was going to have major surgery at least 4 months prior to the date of the surgery and they knew that the type of surgery I was to have would further impair me (reduce function) in exchange for pain relief (it was about a salvage procedure).
The employer must prepare a return to work plan within 10 days, and must keep in touch with the injured worker. Did you know that?
To terminate me was just plain immoral and unlawful.
The worst part, perhaps, came about 18 months later, when I suddenly started receiving over-friendly emails from a new unknown-to-me return to work coordinator (asking how I was doing, informing that I had been paid etc etc) and my pay slips (salary) started arriving in the mail. Prior to that I had never ever received my pay slips in the mail (after having been sacked). I nearly fell over when I noticed that I was demoted, and seemingly reinstated! When I contacted my lawyer, it became pretty clear that I was “officially still employed by the very same employer” – basically someone (obviously the insurance company or someone highly ranked) must have realised that my employer had made the biggest mistake of their lives and tried to COVER UP. How nauseating.
But rest assured, I still have their sacking letter, all their nasty emails, the immediate “vocational assessment” the insurer sent me to (and their stupid letter sates that the reason being the termination of my employment), but I also have their attempt to bribe me! Yes, they tried to offer me hush money, a miserable $6000 and they were so stupid as to text this to me!
How is that for an example return to work!
It happens every day to many Aussies, we call it “constructive dismissal” and “discrimination”.
I am not sure if “studies” are needed in the field, I would have thought that the culture ought to change… but that is my severely injured opinion.