In 2017–18, we established a project to develop a national return to work strategy. With more than half a million Australians sustaining a work-related injury or illness each year, Safe Work Australia Members were determined to identify common challenges and opportunities across Australia to improve return to work outcomes.
The development of the Strategy was an iterative and collaborative process involving the Commonwealth, states and territories, employer, industry and union groups and academics. Targeted research and a range of consultation activities were instrumental in identifying national issues that are critical to improving return to work outcomes, and designing national approaches to address them.
In April 2019, Safe Work Australia Members endorsed the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030. The Strategy has now been endorsed by all WHS ministers.
Workers are at the heart of the Strategy’s vision to minimise the impact of work-related injury or illness, and enable a timely, safe and durable return to work. The Strategy aims to better support workers in their recovery and return to work journey.
Strategic outcomes outline the expected change over the life of the Strategy, centre on the worker and recognise the important relationship between workers and their employers. Guiding principles characterise a positive return to work outcome for workers, and cut across the practice of all stakeholders. Five action areas represent the opportunities for change at a national level and are designed to work in tandem to apply the guiding principles.
The Strategy provides a framework to pull together current activity at the national and jurisdictional levels and to guide future work. It will shape Safe Work Australia’s workers’ compensation policy agenda for the next decade with a rolling evidence-building program ensuring national action is responsive to current and emerging issues.
A priority for 2019 is the development of a measurement framework to track progress against the strategic outcomes throughout the life of the Strategy. An implementation plan is also being developed to provide a high-level roadmap of national action for the first five years of the Strategy, culminating in a mid-term review in 2025.
Safe Work Australia Members look forward to promoting and implementing this significant national policy initiative following its launch later this year.