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Mar 3, 2021


The importance of early intervention and referral to workplace rehabilitation



As stated in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Health Benefits of Good Work position statement, if a person is off work after an injury:

  • after just 20 days, the probability that they will ever return to work reduces to just 70%
  • at 45 days off work, that chance is reduced to 50%
  • at 70 days it’s just 35%.


Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association believes that early referral to a workplace rehabilitation provider (WRP) for specialist early return to work intervention services is one of the most critical factors in supporting an injured worker in achieving a successful return to work outcome.


Across Australia, return to work rates over the last decade have stagnated and in some jurisdictions, such as NSW, return to work rates have significantly reduced. Delays and reduction in referrals are correlated directly to the stagnated / reduced return to work rates, denying injured workers reasonable opportunities to achieve the best recovery and return to work outcome available to them.


Early intervention means starting to plan the worker’s return to work as early as possible once a worker has experienced an injury. Commencing return to work planning and offering support immediately to a worker drastically improves their ability to recover quickly and safely and sustainably return to their job and normal life.


In a research study that looked at the effect of early intervention on return to work, the study found that:

  • Those who underwent early intervention were more likely to back at work within 6 months
  • Those who underwent early intervention were 50% more likely to return to work at 12 months
  • The return on investment (ROI) for every $1 invested in early intervention was $7
  • The intervention also had the additional benefit of identifying and eliminating risks for other employees.


Research funded by WorkSafe Victoria found strong evidence that:

  • Workplace / occupational rehabilitation interventions are effective at improving RTW outcomes, particularly for musculoskeletal injuries
  • Workplace / occupational rehabilitation achieves the best outcomes when
    delivered early (2–4 weeks of injury)


ARPA states that innovation and proactive management is key to successful RTW outcomes. People are at the centre of successful rehabilitation and are best managed by qualified and experienced consultants for their rehabilitation needs.


For the full position paper, click here.

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