When an employee is injured in the course of doing their work it is called a work related injury, and there are requirements on the business to go to great lengths to support the employees return to work and facilitate light duties. However, when the injury occurs outside of work, or is non-work related, the role of the business is providing for the employee to return to work is less clear. In this special series of HR Highlights will explore the requirements when managing a non-work injury in a workplace setting, from Initial Communications around care and entitlements, to Requests for Light Duties to Managing long term illness or incapacity (including termination). This week Part 1 will explore the initial communications, expressing care, confirming entitlements and expectations.
A work related injury is
easily defined, on that occurs as a result of work, at work, or primarily
caused by work. A non-work injury is any injury that does not fall within
this definition. This may include illness.
Some non-work injuries are
simple and are easily and intuitively managed. Businesses do it every
day. When an employee calls in sick, the business is managing a non-work
injury or illness. “I can’t come in today, I have a cold” is a common
communication. The employee and the business understand what a cold is,
roughly how long it will last and how to treat it. In many cases there is
not even a need to see a doctor, rest and time will take care of the
issue. In such simple cases the business does not have any need for a
more detailed response than to wish the employee well and to process the
The process for more
detailed cases is the same, though the level of detail, time and treatment
required, means a more formal and documented approach is required to be applied
to this same process.
By way of example we will
explore a recent case, wherein the employee was in a car accident travelling
from a personal social event to her home. The car accident was severe, as
were the employees injuries. Due to the severity of her injuries, the
first the business heard of the accident was when the employee did not present
for work at her rostered time and the business reached out by phone, only to be
informed of the accident.
While it may be business
policy for all absences to be notified, a level of latitude must be granted to
employees when the circumstances dictate it. In this case it would have
been excessive for the business to contemplate discipline or performance
management responses to the breach in policy, as the employee was effectively
unable to notify the business of the absence, due to her injuries.
Once notified the business
made available all leave entitlements and communicated in writing the desire
for the employee to have a speedy recovery, as well as the steps for return to
Diagnosis, Prognosis and
The primary issue with
managing a non-work injury for the business is gathering the information
required to assess the impact of the injury on the workplace as well as the
duration required for healing. The nature of the injury is the
Diagnosis. The anticipated time to heal is the Prognosis. The
restriction required to facilitate healing is the Management steps, also known
as specified light duties.
In most cases the Diagnosis
will be offered by the employee or the doctor; “Mary will be unfit to work due
to a sprained ankle”, however, in some cases the Diagnosis will be withheld;
“Mary will be unfit to work”. The business does not need the Diagnosis,
provided the Prognosis, and any required Management Steps are recorded.
In any non-work injury it
is imperative that the business understand the Diagnosis (options), Prognosis
and Management Steps, BEFORE the employee returns to work, in order to ensure
that the employee does not reinjure themselves while at work (which would be a
work injury even if connected to a non-work injury). This imperative
exists for simple as well as complicated non-work injuries.
Seeking information and
In our earlier example of
the car crash, the business wrote to the employee confirming their
conversation, outlining what entitlements were accrued, and wishing the
employee a speedy recovery. The communication also included the next
steps required. Initial step was to seek a Medical Certificate outline
the Diagnosis/Prognosis. The later steps that would need to be
implemented before the employee would be returned to the rosters were also
It is important that these
steps are clarified in detail and that the inherent physical requirements of
the role are outlined in detail, as they will form the basis for discussions
with the employees doctor about when the employee is “fit” to return to work
and will greatly impact on later discussions if light duties are requested, or
medical incapacity becomes an issue.
Further to our recent conversation the business understands that
on [date] your were in a car accident while driving between a personal social
event and your home. Again I would like to say all our thoughts are with
you and we wish you a speedy recovery.
As discussed the business will process your sick leave (personal
and carers leave) request as per our conversation. As discussed the
business requests that as soon as possible could you please have your doctor
forward a medical certificate outlining the impact of your injury and when it
is anticipated you will be fit for work (prognosis), so that the business can
process the leave requested and implement appropriate contact and review
processes. This can be forwarded to myself via email to [email address]
or fax to [fax number].
As discussed below are your current leave entitlements accrued as
- Sick (personal and carers) Leave; 24
- Annual Leave; 31 days
- Long Service Leave; 0 days (note as you
have served less than 10 years, but more than 7 years, pro rata Long Service
Leave is not available to be taken or cashed out, only paid out on termination)
As discussed for now the business will process 10 days Sick
(personal and carers) Leave and will contact you on [date] to seek instruction
on what leave to process thereafter.
As discussed you also have the option of accessing Leave Without
As discussed we wish you a speedy recovery and will be in touch as
appropriate. Once you are well enough to return to work the business will
need to see a Fit To Work Certificate from your doctor outlining that you are
fit to undertake all of your pre injury duties, including; standing for up to 7
hours per day, lifting items from the ground, restocking shelves, carrying
items up to 15kg, processing sales, communicating with customers, responding in
an emergency (such as a spill or fire).
All the best.
If the employee provides
the information required as requested and is declared “fit” for work and
returns, there is little the business needs to do, other that a check in to see
that they are doing well on their return.
However, there are several
thorny situations that may arise. What if the employee does not
communicate with the business? What if they do not comply with the requests
to provide information and medical certificates? What if the medical
certificates request light duties? What if the medical certificates
outline that the employee will not be fit for work for months? These
questions will be explored in detail in Parts 2 and 3 of the series.
If the employee injury was
a more simple “sprained ankle” the process would be the same; express care,
outline entitlements and expectations.
However, in more simple
cases such as these the employee may have already seen their doctor and their
doctor may have already provided them with clearance to return to work,
provided they do not undertake certain duties, or undertake some modifications
to the work.
When the injury is non-work
related there is no requirement for the business to provide light or modified
duties, however, approving or rejecting such requests must be carefully
balanced and approached to ensure that the business is protected and that the
employee is given appropriate supported space to heal.
This particularly difficult
area to manage will be explored in Part 2: Light Duties Requests and
Return to Work
Here to Help
members are reminded that the ACAPMA Employment Professionals are available to
assist with employment, safety and training compliance. For more information
HR Highlights are things to
consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as
general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org its free
for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $880 per year for a single
site and valuable with sites gaining HR and IR advice support and
representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.