Prolonged Absence – The Unseen Impact

We recently shared a blog Suitable Duties Simplified where we touched on the health benefits that work can have on an individual following an injury.

Health conditions and injuries can cause a diversion to our life plans. We know the direct impacts prolonged absence can have on injured employees, but what are the unseen consequences that prolonged absence can have on both the Employee and Employer following a compensable injury?

Prolonged Absence - The Unseen Impact Precision Physio

Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

Firstly, there are many factors that influence the length of absence an injured worker may require following an injury. Some key factors may include:

  • Nature and severity of injury/illness – more significant injuries may require time off, whereas other less significant injuries in most cases should allow an injured worker to recover whilst remaining at work in some capacity
  • Medical Treatment and Rehabilitation – The type of treatment required and duration of that treatment, including surgeries, inpatient rehabilitation programs and those requiring more intensive and ongoing medical care may impact the length of absence. This includes the medical opinions from the medical team that play a crucial role in determining the length of absence, and the ability to remain at/or return to work.
  • Progress and recovery rate– rates of recovery varies between individuals, taking into consideration their overall health, age, adherence to treatment, and any other biopsychosocial factors that can influence their pace of recovery. Check out our blog Biopsychosocial Approach to understand how other contributing factors can play a role.
  • Compensable scheme regulations – Compensable schemes specify the duration of entitlement to weekly benefits, medical and other benefits, and the conditions under which individuals are eligible to these entitlements.
  • Job requirement and Workplace accommodations – The nature of the role and the demands associated with it, coupled with the availability of suitable duties and whether modifications can be implemented can impact whether an individual can return to work. So even if an employee is fit for suitable duties, they may remain off work if suitable duties can not be offered within their restrictions. 
  • Legal & Regulatory requirements – especially those relating to disability and work, health and safety, can affect the length of absence and conditions for returning to work.
  • Support network- support from the Employer, Insurer and medical team can positively influence the length of absence and overall return to work process, whereas lack of support can have a negative impact.

Now that we have considered the possible factors influencing absence from work, let’s look at the impact extended absence can have on Employees and their Employer:

  • Loss of income – Compensation schemes do provide wage entitlements to compensate for loss of income, however this can be capped depending on pre-injury earnings, length of absence and the workers capacity for employment. For some employees, they can still be at a wage loss.
  • Financial strain- the above can therefore lead to financial strain, affecting the ability to meet daily living expenses, and pay bills for example
  • Medical recovery and Recovery at Work – In many cases, returning to work can be an important part of a workers rehabilitation, and can aid the recovery process. So prolonged absence may actually have a negative impact on a worker’s overall recovery. Staying active and engaged in work can speed up the recovery process.
  • Loss of skills –  Extended absence can result in a decline in work-related knowledge and skill set, making it challenging to reintegrate back into the workforce
  • Career disruption –  Prolonged absence may disrupt an employees career trajectory, leading to a gap in skills and experience
  • Job security – Compensation schemes provide job security for the first 6 months after an injury and it is an offence for Employers to dismiss a worker as a result of their injury during that period. However longer term absences may raise concerns about job security beyond this period
  • Impact on workplace and team– the prolonged absence of an employee can result in having to redistribute workloads, resulting in increased stress, and can impact team dynamics.
  • Employer costs- Prolonged absence may result in Employers recruiting additional temporary staff, retraining existing staff and workplace adjustments, and productivity can be impacted whilst teams adjust to the absence, and again adjust to reintegration of the employee. Not to mention the financial impact that workers compensation claims can have on a business, with the most expensive component being wages where there is prolonged absence from work.

There will be times where Injured workers are medically unfit, and require time off work. But in most cases, you may be able to proactively look at opportunities to support earlier return to work in consultation with the employees support team. It’s important that both employees and employers communicate and work collaboratively together, and this may help reduce both the seen and unseen impacts prolonged absence may have.

At Precision Physio, we have Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists who understand the needs of our clients and the businesses they work for. If we can assist you or your workforce, get in touch with us today:

  • Precision Physio Concord: 02 9736 3950
  • Precision Physio St Marys: 02 9623 2220
  • Precision Physio Mt Druitt: 02 9188 2552

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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