Injured or ill workers often rely on their colleagues for smooth and successful Return to Work (RTW). Recent research projects hope to help with this, by identifying the training that best prepares supervisors and RTW Coordinators for dealing with RTW processes.

Previous research in this area has suggested that supervisors take on a range of responsibilities with respect to RTW, often doing even more than workplace HR Officers or OHS Officers when it comes to coordinating modified work for an injured employee, interpreting official RTW policies, monitoring the worker's ongoing health, and/or communicating concern/support as required.

Given their central role in this process, and the acknowledged importance of safe and speedy RTW, supervisors were brought into the research spotlight.

Dr Venerina Johnston from the University of Queensland led a team to identify the most beneficial RTW education for supervisors and how this education could best be delivered. Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety joined ISCRR in supporting this project.

Meanwhile, ISCRR was concurrently tasked with re-evaluating the effectiveness of WorkSafe's RTW Coordinator Training Scheme.

This project was led by Dr Richard Cooney from Monash's Department of Management and involved a comprehensive analysis of both the scheme's training materials and program structure.

Where to now?

This research into supervisor training wrapped up with the delivery of a final report, confirming the significant role that supervisors play in RTW and the need for employers to explicitly recognise and coordinate this.

The delivered report identifies the key competencies that line supervisors should obtain before managing RTW for others.

These findings indicate that education around these competencies would be best provided via face-to-face training, with an emphasis on RTW with respect to mental illness, as this area was identified as most challenging to supervisors.

The team published a journal article based on their findings. The ISCRR Evidence Review Hub has since published a review of the effectiveness of RTW interventions for individuals with mental illness.

The research into WorkSafe's RTW Coordinator Training Schemes concluded in 2012 with a final report. The report concludes that, while the existing training is effective, it would benefit from an online component, refresher capacity, and the development of an advanced module.