National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030
More than half a million Australians sustain work-related injury or disease annually at an estimated economic cost of $61.8 billion. Australia’s workers’ compensation systems alone bear direct costs of $9 billion per annum from income support, treatment and rehabilitation, and lump sum payments. However, the broader impact on workers, their families and society as a whole is estimated to be far greater.
Workers’ compensation systems aim to minimise the cost and impact of work-related injury and illness. There are 11 main workers’ compensation schemes in Australia – one for each of the eight Australian states and territories, and three Commonwealth schemes.
The differences between workers’ compensation schemes present significant challenges for national policy efforts and unlike WHS laws, there is limited appetite and incentive to pursue harmonised arrangements at this time.
While specific arrangements vary between jurisdictions, supporting timely, safe and durable return to work for workers is a central objective of all schemes.
‘Return to work’ is about helping workers to get back to work or to stay at work while they recover from work-related injury or illness. It is a complex process in which many factors at the individual, organisational and system levels interact to influence a worker’s recovery, absence from work and the durability of their return to work. A positive return to work involves all systems working well together.
While the number of claims from work-related injury and illness has decreased over the last two decades, return to work rates have largely remained the same. In addition, emerging trends such as increasing numbers of psychological injuries and whole-of-system shifts towards client-centric approaches present new opportunities to tackle these challenges from a national perspective.
It is with these opportunities in mind that Safe Work Australia developed the National Return to Work Strategy (the Strategy). The Strategy can be accessed here.