The Return to Work (RTW) Plan
If an employee needs to take an extended break from work due to illness, injury or surgery, a RTW Plan is a positive tool to help them return to work safely, productively and in the right mindset.

Having a plan ensures you and your employee are on the same page and gives everyone some structure and something to work towards.

Having a policy to support your planning is not essential, but it can be beneficial as it lets your employees know that your business supports return to work plans. A policy should clearly outline what is required from you and your employee in the event of an extended absence from work.

Be proactive
As soon as it’s apparent the employee will be away from work, sit down with them and get an understanding of how long they are likely to be off work.

Not all situations require a RTW Plan. We generally recommend doing a plan if the expected time away from work is greater than two weeks or if there will be a reduction or change in their ability to return to usual duties (short or long-term) as a result of the employee’s illness/injury/surgery.

If the expected time is more than three months, talk with an HR Adviser as you may need to consider significant changes to manage the workload or whether termination of employment is appropriate.

The paperwork
The employee should be asked to provide a current certificate of capacity from their treating specialist, medical professional and/or ACC case manager. This will be used to provide information regarding:

  • how long the employee is expected to be absent from work
  • whether the employee is expected to return at full capacity or with reduced duties, or a temporary or permanent change in duties
  • whether the employee is needing to take a gradual approach to return to work in terms of days and hours
  • current limitations in terms of mental and physical capacity

Writing the RTW Plan
No two RTW plans are the same; each plan is tailored to the employee and their individual situation. Agree the terms of the plan with the employee. It should include these key things:

  • days and hours of work, including whether working from home is an option
  • physical limitations associated with their usual duties
  • any contributing information from medical professionals and/or ACC case managers
  • date expected to achieve a full return to work
  • workplace support, e.g. review of the employee’s workstation
  • review dates for the plan
  • ongoing information required from medical professionals and/or ACC case managers
  • any payroll instructions, e.g. sick leave payments, unpaid leave etc.

The importance of checking in…
A plan goes a long way to dialling down the stress, but because there are so many variables in play, you need to have some flexibility to change the plan. This means planned check-ins with the employee are important as you want them to stay connected while they are not at work. Talking with them will help you keep on top of things in the event the plan needs to be modified.

At the outset the big unknown is how quickly the employee is able to become productive again. Keeping in contact will give you a sense of whether they are champing at the bit to start work again or needing to take extra time. Good communication will help to get the balance right.

If you have any questions about RTW Plans give us a call anytime on 07 823 3250 or send us an email  [email protected].