In Health and Safety, September 20212 MinutesBy Tracey MurphyOctober 8, 2021

Last month, I talked about supporting people in managing their mental health. Today I want to talk about a different type of support – rehabilitation. Rehabilitation occurs when a staff member is unable to do regular duties or their normal hours. ACC expresses this as a safe and early return to work.

Organisations try to rehabilitate staff following a workplace injury, a non-work injury, or something like an illness/surgery – essentially, any time a staff member meets the above criteria. Recently, I had a small accident and broke two fingers on my dominant hand. If anyone had asked me how challenging that would be before my accident, I would have given a completely different response. My medical certificate stated that I could complete light duties for seven hours a day for two weeks.

ACC is trying to move the terminology away from light duties, which is restrictive in definition, to suitable, modified or alternative duties. This enables managers to think outside the specific role of the staff member and consider other options. The work must be valuable to both the staff member and organisation, it must meet the limitations of the medical certificate, and keep the staff member and those around them safe. This means that the physical health and well-being of the staff member will not be at risk and that they can carry out the work safely.

The type of work available depends on the organisation, the staff member’s abilities and limitations, and the role. Consider training, supervision, reviewing SOPs, etc. There may be tasks that are new to the staff member and are achievable.

Be guided by the medical certificate and the staff member. Set up a plan – ACC can help with this. Set up review dates and check in. If no rehabilitation is possible, stay in touch with the staff member. It’s very easy for them to become disconnected, making the return to work even harder. Make them feel like a valued member of your team.

Thanks to my team, who supported me and never made me feel like a nuisance.