RTW Knowledge Base
RTW Knowledge Base
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The issue for employees

The issue for employees

Why the focus on return to work?

When an injury or illness requires sick leave taking time off work becomes an issue in itself. Most people return to work quickly after sick leave, but a significant minority are absent for a long time. Some remain off work permanently.

Many people do not realize the potential consequences of missed work – after all, we take holidays every year, how much of a problem can a little time off be? For a person with an injury or illness, for their family or the doctor treating them, it may seem more natural to forget about work and “focus on getting better." Whatever the reason for sick leave, it is important to realize that missing work will influence recovery. Missed work also impacts the workplace, the family of the person with the condition and the community.

An athlete will continue to focus on their training and their condition while they recover from an injury or illness. The same applies to work. Working involves skills, attitudes and habits that are built up over the years. Staying “out of training' for a moderate length of time has a negative effect on your physical condition, your mental health
mental health
Emotional wellbeing. Ability to cope with difficulty and enjoy life. THe absence of a mental health problem.
 and your beliefs and expectations. After a few months off the chance of ever returning is slim. The personal and financial consequences are severe, for the individual, their family and the workplace.

In many cases, these things can be actively avoided; they are not inevitable.

This is why return to work is such a key focus in occupational health. Improving safety in the workplace and seeking the best medical treatments are strategies that aim to avoid time off work – because time off work is a sign that an injury, or illness, is disrupting normal life.

Being able to return to work is not just a matter of how severe the injury or illness is – in fact research has shown that other factors are much more important. The approach to treatment, the response of the employer, decisions made in the workplace and the beliefs and attitudes of the people involved are some of the most important influences on recovery and return to work.

Occupational health involves workers, employers, insurance companies, medical professionals, occupational health and safety experts and a host of other people. Each brings a unique perspective to return to work. The evidence shows that medical treatment alone is not enough to improve outcomes, improving workplace health requires the input of all of these players.

How can this website help?

This website provides scientifically-supported information about the best approach to treatment, management, prevention and risk-reduction.

The best approach is not always clear.

Doctors, employers, patients and insurers might all have different ideas about how to manage workplace health and all of these people can feel under-informed.

Sometimes traditional or popular strategies for managing workplace health fly in the face of what the scientific evidence tells us is effective.

There are lots of claims that certain treatments or interventions
A treatment or management program. Interventions often combine several approaches. In this field approaches include training in problem solving, adaptation of work duties, graded activity, an exercise and stretching program and pain relief.
 are effective, but until they've been carefully studied it's impossible to be sure.

Although many studies have been performed, the information is not easy for everyone to access and sometimes there is simply too much of it. On this website, scientific papers have been translated into an easy-to-read format. They provide up-to-date objective evidence with recommendations for managing a personal injury or illness, best-practice in the workplace, or medical clinic and important factors in workers' compensation claims. The overall aim is to arm people with the knowledge to either prevent or respond to injury and illness in the most effective way possible, which in turn will reduce sick leave and improves return to work.

Dr Mary Wyatt- Chair Knowledge Base Project Team.


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