Do I need a return to work certificate in Victoria?
If you have a WorkCover claim in Victoria and you want to return to work, you might be wondering whether you need a return to work certificate.
What is a return to work certificate?
Technically speaking, under the Victorian WorkCover system, there is no such thing as a return to work certificate.
What there is is a certificate of capacity.
A certificate of capacity is sometimes called a WorkCover certificate.
It is a certificate that you need to obtain if you are to claim weekly payments from the WorkCover insurer if your ability to work is impacted because of a work related injury, illness or condition.
Without a WorkCover certificate, you will not be able to be paid weekly payments.
To read more about WorkCover certificates/certificates of capacity, you can visit this page.
When you get a work cover certificate of capacity, it will certify your work capacity as either fit for full duties, fit for modified duties, unfit for all duties.
If you are fit for modified duties, the person certifying you should indicate what restrictions need to be in place.
For example, your certificate may indicate that should not lift anything heavier than 10kg.
Or that you should not be no your feet for more than an hour at a time.
Or a multitude of other possible restrictions.
When returning to work, you need to be medically okay to do so
After a period of absence from your employment because of a work related injury, illness or condition, you need to be medically certified as fit to return to work.
This means that you need to obtain a certificate of capacity from your doctor or other health practitioner that certifies you as fit for full duties or alternatively fit for modified duties.
This is what some people are actually referring to when they are referring to a ‘return to work certificate’ or a ‘fit to work certificate’.
If you are certified fit for full duties, then you should just be able to return to your pre injury role without issue.
However, it’s a bit of a different story when it comes to getting certified fit for modified duties.
Here’s an example:
Lets say that your certificate of capacity says that you are able to return to work on full hours, but that you should not lift more than 5kg and you are to avoid repetitive use of your right shoulder.
And lets say you work in a job where most of your work involves manual lifting.
And that it’s not feasible for you to ask a colleague to assist you every time you need to lift something.
Even though you are certified as being fit for modified duties, your employer will need to find a job that is suitable for you.
For example, this may mean that they get you to do admin work or work in a more supervisory role.
And so for this reason It’s important that your doctor or the person certifying you understands the nature of the work you do so they can provide a certificate of capacity that is considered and realistic.
What happens if there are no suitable duties for me?
If you have obtained return to work certificate that certifies you fit to do modified duties but there are no suitable duties for you to do, then the law says that you do not need to return to work and you can be paid your full entitlement by way of weekly payments.
Keep in mind that this does not mean your full pre-injury wage. Instead it means the full amount that you are entitled to by way of weekly payments.
You can read more about weekly payments here.
What if I’m not on WorkCover?
If you’re not on WorkCover and you have been off work with an injury or illness or condition, you probably won’t need to obtain medical material confirming that you’re ok to return to work.
However, in some cases you will.
Particularly in cases where you may have a significant restriction, it may be worthwhile getting the ok from your treating medical practitioner that you’ll be ok to return to work.
Also, your employer has an obligation to provide a safe workplace to you and colleagues.
So if there is some potential that your restriction may be a safety issue, your employer may request that you obtain medical material, whether that be in the form of a certificate or letter from your doctor or other medical provider, saying that you’re okay to return to work.
In some cases they may also request that you attend an appointment with a doctor of their choosing.
Technically speaking, when it comes to a WorkCover claim in Victoria, there is no such thing as a return to work certificate.
What there is however is a certificate of capacity.
A certificate of capacity may certify you as fit for full duties, fit for modified duties or fit for no duties.
What some people are actually referring to when they refer to a return to work certificate is a certificate of capacity that certifies them as either fit for full duties or fit for modified duties.
If you are certified fit for modified duties then an employer will need to find you duties that match up to the medical restrictions that have been placed on you by your doctor or other health practitioner.
If there are no suitable duties for you, then you are entitled to be paid weekly payments.
If you do not have a WorkCover claim and you are wondering whether you need medical material confirming you’re ok to return to work, this is something that you should speak to your employer about.
Your employer has an obligation to ensure a safe workplace for you and others and if there is a concern that there might be a safety issue given a restriction that you have, they may request that you obtain medical material either in the form of a certificate or a letter confirming that you are okay to return to work.