Injury management frequently asked questions and case studies

This page holds some of the injury management/return to work frequently asked questions Injury Management Consultants (IMCs) receive whilst working with employers. You can ask us a question, just contact us and let us know your question. We will contact you with the answer.

Q1: Do my employees need to be 100% fit before returning to work after an injury?

No. They may be able to perform modified or alternative duties as part of the rehabilitation process. Allowing an employee to rehabilitate at the work place means that they are less likely to lose 'work fitness' and you minimise lost productivity.

What you can do
  • Educate your employees – explain you’ll work with them, their treatment providers and ACC to help them stay at or return to work even if they aren’t 100% fit.
  • Talk to the treatment provider, ACC, employees and supervisors about how you can help your employees return to work safely.
  • Contact ACC to enquire about the free Injury Management Services that are available.
  • Think temporary suitable duties (duties that are suitable for the work capacity that your employee has).
Supporting case studies

Q2: Do treatment providers always know when their patients are ready to return to work?

Treatment providers are the experts in diagnosis and treatment; you are the expert in your workplace environment. Offering your knowledge to treatment providers allows them to make well informed decisions about when your employee can return to work.

What you can do

Provide information to the treatment provider about the demands of the job, temporary suitable duties that may be available and any workplace support options

Supporting case studies

Q3: Isn’t it ACC's responsibility to get my employee back to work.

Everyone has a role to play, ACC will help your employee as much as possible but they will get back to work faster if everyone involved works together. For more information, see the Injury management/back on the job guide for industry.

What you can do
  • Create clear injury management (return to work / rehabilitation) policies and processes.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to access this information.
  • Make sure people understand their role and responsibilities in the process.
  • Provide information to those involved eg ACC case owner, treatment providers.
Supporting case studies

Q4: My employee wasn’t injured at work so do I have any influence over their rehabilitation?

You play a key role in influencing your employee’s rehabilitation wherever they were injured. For more information see the Injury management/back on the job guide for industry.

What you can do
  • You are entitled to information that relates to your employee’s ability to do their job, eg work capacity and physical restrictions, if you don’t have this information ask the treatment provider or the ACC case owner. Find out also:
  • when you can expect your employee to return to work
  • how you can be involved
  • if an employee can do the suitable duties you have identified.
  • Review your injury management system, if you need assistance contact an ACC Injury Prevention and Management Consultant (see the Contact Us pages).
  • Ask your employee for written consent to get information from other parties
Supporting case studies

Q5: Does it cost more to return an employee to work than it is to get a replacement?

Helping an employee to stay at or return to work doesn’t need to be expensive, a simple rearrangement or tasks or equipment may be all that is needed. For more information see the Injury management/back on the job guide for industry.

Replacing an injured employee can lead to high costs, for example, extra training, supervision, productivity or knowledge loss, or even recruitment & advertising costs.

What you can do
  • Think of temporary suitable duties (duties that are suitable for the work capacity that your employee has).
  • Educate your employees – explain you’ll work with them, their treatment providers and ACC to help them stay at or return to work even if they aren’t 100% fit.
  • Make sure the treatment provider is aware of the job demands of both the injured employee’s job and the potential suitable duties you have available.
Ways ACC can work with you

Whether the injury is work-related or not, ACC can work with you by:

  • abating, ie topping up an injured employee’s weekly compensation so they are close to full earning capacity, only if they are on reduced hours/transitional duties (ensure that the correct tax codes are being use)
  • referring the employee to the Stay at Work Programme
  • contributing to the cost of modifications to accommodate the injury
  • arranging a work trial, which can include a non-payroll cost for a short period of time (ACC weekly compensation days paid may qualify for experience rating calculations – see our experience rating section for more information).
Supporting case studies

Q6: If my employee's injury is not work-related I can't access any information to help them return to work can I?

As an employer you are able to access the information such as workplace assessments, but only where the information is relevant to you and returning your employee to work - information about an employee's personal life is not relevant.

What you can do
  • Ask the ACC case owner what information you are able to access.
  • Talk to the employee about gaining written consent to speak with other stakeholders (such as the treatment provider) about their return to work.
Supporting case studies

Q7: What if I have duties available and my employees won’t do them?

Your employee has to have the capability to do the duties you have available and there are a number of ways to match capability to available duties.

What you can do
  • Ask the treatment provider to specify your employee’s physical capability and restrictions so you can match their capacity with duties.
  • Contact the ACC case owner and discuss whether your injured employee has the capacity to take on the duties you have available.
  • Discuss the Stay at Work service with the ACC case owner.
Supporting case study

Transport case study (DOC 94K)

Q8: I have an employee who is capable of doing alternative duties, according to the ACC case owner and their treatment provider, but still refuses to do the duties, what should I do?

There may be other circumstances you are not aware of, eg a personality clash between your employee and their supervisor, bullying from co workers. It may even be that your employee or their family believe that returning/continuing to work will be harmful for their rehabilitation.

What you can do
  • Investigate possible barriers and address them.
  • Discuss the situation and/or any investigation findings with the ACC case owner.
  • If there is no reasonable excuse for your employee refusing to carry out alternative duties during their rehabilitation, you can deal with the issue as per your usual performance process. ACC treats the refusal as non-compliance, and may decline entitlements if the employee refuses to take part in this form of rehabilitation without a reasonable excuse.

Q9: How can the Stay at Work programme help me?

Stay at Work uses a team approach to help people recover from injury within the workplace. The team could include any or all of the following at any one time: injured employee, employer, stay at work service provider eg an occupational therapist, ACC case owner, GP, or any health professional such as physiotherapist or specialist.

Generally the Stay at Work service provider uses their clinical expertise to work with everyone involved to find solutions to help your injured employee recover at work or gradually return to work

What you can do
  • If you have an injured employee who you believe may benefit from the service contact ACC and discuss this service.
  • In situations where a Stay at Work provider is working with one of your employees, ensure that you are actively involved in discussions.
Supporting case studies

Q10: How can my other employees help in my injured employee’s rehabilitation?

Co workers can assist in a number of ways eg providing expertise when looking at suitable duties as they are familiar with the work environment. They can use their expertise to:

  • highlight potential hazards
  • assist in day to day monitoring of your injured employee during their rehabilitation to make sure they are coping
  • make suggestions to rearrange work tasks to accommodate your rehabilitating employee
  • provide support
  • act as an advocate, for the injury management process
  • act as a link between you and your injured employee
What you can do

Educate your employees – try and get them to realise that an employee returning to work early/continuing on the job will need their support for the programme to be a success.

Supporting case studies

Q11. When can my employees begin their workplace rehabilitation?

Employees who have incapacity due to an injury may begin their return to work as early as it is deemed appropriate by their doctor/specialist/treatment provider. It is very helpful for the doctor or specialist to have an awareness of the workplace environment that their patient is returning to. For example a document indicating the type and range of alternative duties available is highly likely to influence an early return to work being supported by an appropriate medical certificate.

Q12. When do I contact ACC for support or advice?

ACC can be contacted at any stage during your employee’s incapacity. Often the earlier the better is the key for successful work place rehabilitation. Even during the first week ACC may be able to provide support to help keep your staff at work.

What you can do

Call ACC on 0800101996 for support and advice - ensure you:

  • have your employee’s ACC claim number handy (it is normally on the top of the medical certificate)
  • are prepared to explain your situation and your concerns or solutions
  • ask for advice on how best to work in partnership with ACC, so that your employee enjoys a safe and sustainable return to work.

Q13: What legal requirements do I have to satisfy?

There are a number of legislative points to keep in mind. ACC employer obligations are recorded in section 71 of ACC’s governing legislation, the Accident Compensation Act 2001 (external link).

Here are other key acts with references to relevant sections:

Last reviewed: 30 January 2014
Last updated: 30 January 2014