Job security delays return to work for injured workers: report

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Research has found fears over job security and finances are setting back recovery and return to work times for injured workers.

Workplace health solutions provider Konekt’s latest report found job security concerns were the second most common risk factor to injured workers beginning rehabilitation and returning to work – behind psychological factors.

The report was compiled in collaboration with research and data-analysis company Littleton Consulting, and analysed more than 156,000 rehabilitation cases from around Australia over the past eight years.

It found 82 per cent of initial referrals were for musculoskeletal disorders and injuries such as fractures, while 12 per cent were for a mental health condition.

Around one third of fly in fly out (FIFO) workers experience anxiety, depression or stress symptoms, according to research by Edith Cowan University in Western Australia – double the rate of the rest of the Australian population.

The Konekt report also found the highest proportion of fractures happened in the construction sector, while the longest delay to referral time was in the manufacturing industry.

“Over the past 10-15 years, people have become more afraid to speak up when they have an injury because of job uncertainty,” Principal psychologist at CommuniCorp Group, Dr Chris Stevens, said.

“And these insecurities and chronic stresses have certainly been exacerbated in recent times by things such as mortgage stress.”

Stevens highlighted that a holistic approach to rehabilitation is important now more than ever, indicating biopsychosocial injury management which takes into account physical, psychological and social factors that can affect an injured worker’s ability to function and participate in work and their motivation to find a new job.

He suggested the need for ‘work oriented treatment’ which requires all stakeholders including employers, human resources managers, insurers and healthcare professionals, better understanding all factors impacting the worker and developing a suitable treatment plan.

The report also found nearly 50 per cent of all biopsychosocial factors are psychological and the longer the delay to treatment, the greater number of biopsychosocial factors a worker will face that will affect recovery and return to work.

Stevens said the report findings quantify what the industry had intuitively known but haven’t had the data to reinforce.

“Getting people back to work as quickly as possible after injury is in the best interests of the injured person, their family, employer, health professionals, and insurers,” he said.

“Timely, supportive and coordinated return to work rehab programs are likely to reduce pain and improve functionality and quality of life, resulting in improved health and faster recovery.”