One of the pillars of successful return to work is a good, communicative relationship among the injured worker, the employer and the worker’s treating physicians.

Employers and healthcare providers are two very important stakeholders in the return-to-work process, says study author and Institute for Work & Health (IWH) Scientist Dr Agnieszka Kosny. The interview participants mostly worked in management, human resources and health and safety.

The study found that:

  • Employers recognise the critical role of doctors in the workers’ compensation system and in getting injured workers back to work.
  • Employers sometimes view doctors as unsupportive of the return-to-work (RTW) process, and felt doctors sometimes find it easier to simply order two weeks’ off for an injured worker rather than to engage in the RTW process.
  • Some employers spoke about phone calls not being answered. While many understood that doctors are busy and not paid for engaging with employers, they were still left with a negative impression due to this lack of communication.
  • Employers find doctors lack a realistic understanding of the needs of the workplace. Many felt this sometimes resulted in recommendations difficult for employers to comply with.


Many issues arose, in particular, with respect to injuries that are not straightforward, such as gradual onset of MSDs, chronic pain or mental health conditions.

The study was conducted in the Australian state of Victoria as part of a larger project that examined workers’ compensation and return to work from the perspectives of several stakeholders: injured workers, employers, healthcare providers and case managers.