Go to top of page

Workers’ compensation

Safe Work Australia’s functions in relation to workers’ compensation include developing national policy to improve workers’ compensation arrangements and support positive return to work outcomes.

National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030

Following endorsement by work health and safety ministers, the landmark National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030 commenced on 1 January 2020. Its vision is to minimise the impact of work-related injury and illness and enable workers to have a timely, safe and durable return to work.

A positive return to work involves a range of stakeholders working together to support the worker following a work-related injury or illness. The 5 action areas in the strategy aim to help stakeholders to effectively support workers through their recovery and return to work.

Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the first tranche of national initiatives under the strategy, focusing on building knowledge and addressing evidence gaps. This early research will pave the way for national collaboration on future initiatives to support workers, workplaces and employers.

Measurement framework

Measuring progress towards the Strategy’s 3 strategic outcomes will enable the efficient and effective targeting of resources to monitor and improve return to work outcomes and inform national action under the strategy.

The measurement framework was developed in partnership with government, worker and employer representatives and was informed by the national and international return to work evidence base, expert advice, and insights from stakeholders during the development of the strategy.

Evidence base

A core function of Safe Work Australia is developing an evidence base to inform workers’ compensation policy and practice. We maintain the National Dataset for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS) and the National Return to Work Survey, which provide insights into workers’ compensation claims and experiences in the return to work process. National initiatives and the measurement framework are informed by and will contribute to this evidence base.

Part 4 – Evidence provides more detail on the NDS and National Return to Work Survey.

Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness project

The objective of the Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness (COMPARE) project is to determine how workers’ compensation scheme policies affect return to work outcomes. The project’s findings contribute to the evidence base that guides development of national workers’ compensation and return to work policy.

Phase one of the COMPARE project ran from 2015 to 2018. The Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University delivered a suite of reports that shaped the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030 and contributed to educating our Members and workers’ compensation stakeholders on key return to work research findings.

Safe Work Australia and the Australian Research Council have jointly funded phase 2 of the COMPARE project. Phase 2 builds on the major activities of phase one to create new knowledge to support policy development, monitoring of national trends and further understanding of return to work in specific industry sectors, occupations, injury types and other cohorts.

Outlook for 2020–21

A key focus for Safe Work Australia in 2020–21 is delivering the first research initiatives under the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–30 and considering their findings in the context of future initiatives.

We will also:

  • operationalise the return to work measurement framework and establish a baseline for future improvement against national return to work measures
  • continue our involvement in and communication of research findings from phase 2 of the COMPARE project
  • release a snapshot update on recent developments in workers’ compensation schemes to complement the biennial Comparison of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand report
  • Continue to ensure the efficient and effective management of the national approach to permanent impairment assessment.