Work injury to thumb

Navigating the Return to Work Process in SA: Debunking Myths, Embracing Rehabilitation and ReturnToWorkSA Facts.

As we navigate through our professional lives, unexpected hurdles like workplace injuries can present significant challenges. However, the path to returning to work after an injury doesn’t have to be shrouded in myths and fears. With the right information and support, workers can confidently embark on their journey towards rehabilitation and reintegration into the workforce.

At SA Hand Therapy, we see a considerable amount of work-related injuries. A minor or major injury can have a large life impact including stress if it causes a reduction in work capacity. This might also create frustrating barriers between worker and employer.

As allied health professionals treating injured workers, a good understanding of the concerns and uncertainties that often accompany a work-related injury are required. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing factual, evidence-based insights to empower individuals in South Australia (SA) to navigate the return-to-work process with confidence and clarity. Let’s first debunk some myths about workplace injuries:

Debunking Myths Surrounding Work Injuries:

Myth 1: “Work injuries inevitably lead to long-term disability.”

Reality: While workplace injuries can be disruptive, they don’t necessarily equate to long-term disability. With proper medical attention, rehabilitation, and support, many individuals successfully return to their pre-injury employment or find suitable alternative roles (Franche et al., 2005).

Myth 2: “Returning to work too soon will worsen the injury.”

Reality: Returning to work gradually, in accordance with medical advice and workplace accommodations, can actually facilitate the recovery process. It promotes physical and psychological well-being while preventing prolonged absence from the workforce (Bültmann et al., 2007).

Myth 3: “Employers aren’t supportive of employees returning to work after an injury.”

Reality: Employers in SA are legally obligated to facilitate the return to work process and provide reasonable accommodations for injured employees. Many employers actively engage in programs to support rehabilitation and maintain a safe working environment (MacEachen et al., 2006).

Understanding the Rehabilitation Pathway:

The ReturnToWorkSA website ( serves as a comprehensive resource for individuals navigating the return to work process in South Australia. It outlines a structured pathway that encompasses the following key stages:

  1. Reporting and Managing the Injury:

– Promptly reporting the injury to the employer and seeking appropriate medical treatment.

– Engaging in early intervention strategies to prevent the injury from exacerbating.

  1. Developing a Return to Work Plan:

– Collaborating with healthcare professionals, employers, and insurers to develop a customised return to work plan.

– Identifying suitable duties and accommodations to facilitate a safe and sustainable return to work.

  1. Implementing Rehabilitation Strategies:

– Participating in rehabilitation programs tailored to address the specific needs and capabilities of the individual.

– Accessing support services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and vocational training.

  1. Monitoring Progress and Adjusting the Plan:

– Regularly reviewing the return to work plan to assess progress and make necessary adjustments.

– Maintaining open communication with all stakeholders to address any challenges or concerns.

Embracing the Journey Towards Recovery:

Returning to work after an injury is not just about resuming job duties; it’s a journey towards physical, emotional, and vocational rehabilitation. By embracing the rehabilitation pathway outlined by ReturnToWorkSA and leveraging the support of healthcare professionals and employers, individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve meaningful outcomes. Even when an injury might have permanent impairment and reduce future working capacity, there is usually a solution to return to a suitable alternative or in a modified role.

ReturnToWorkSA Facts:

Understanding ReturnToWorkSA Legislation and Support Timeframes:

In South Australia, the Return to Work Act 2014 governs the process of rehabilitation and return to work for individuals who have sustained work-related injuries. This legislation aims to promote early intervention, provide appropriate medical treatment, and facilitate the timely return to work of injured employees. For minor injuries that require no time off work, 12 months of rehabilitation or medical support is provided. For injuries that require time off work, then up to 2 years of financial support and up to 3 years of rehabilitation and medical support is provided.

Income Support:

Under the ReturntToWorkSA framework, individuals who are unable to work due to a work-related injury may be eligible for income support through the workers’ compensation scheme. The time frames for income support are typically determined based on the severity of the injury and the expected duration of incapacity. In many cases, temporary income support is provided until the individual is deemed fit to return to work or reaches maximum medical improvement.

100% of pre-injury income (averaged over the prior working 12 months) is typically paid for up to 12 months following the injury. If capacity to get back to full duties is not achieved within 12 months, then the amount of income support will reduce to 80% for a further 12 months. At 2 years post injury if the injury is not assessed above 35% whole person impairment, then all income support will cease.

In some cases lump sums are provided for injuries that will have permanent impairment over 5% of a whole person impairment. This is something that is performed by specialist doctors at the end of your claim or when no further progress can be made. Some of our patients also choose to seek the assistance of an Adelaide based lawyer.

Medical Support:

Additionally, ReturnToWorkSA ensures that injured workers have access to necessary medical treatment and rehabilitation services. These services may include medical consultations, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and psychological support, among others.  A complex situation will sometimes require the expert skills of an occupational physician and we routinely make referral recommendations of best fit for our patients. The aim is to facilitate the recovery process and optimise the individual’s ability to return to work safely and sustainably.


It’s important for individuals to familiarise themselves with their rights and entitlements under the Return To Work Act. This includes understanding the process for lodging a claim, accessing income support, and seeking medical treatment and rehabilitation services. By proactively engaging with the return to work process and adhering to prescribed treatment plans, individuals can expedite their recovery and successfully reintegrate into the workforce.

Our experienced team across all of our Adelaide sites including Daw Park, Mawson Lakes, Adelaide CBD, Blackwood and Gawler will provide comprehensive rehabilitation services tailored to meet the unique needs and goals of each individual. We will also direct your care to other professionals if required and guide with the transition back to work.

Work-related injuries need not be associated with fear and uncertainty. By dispelling myths and embracing evidence-based rehabilitation strategies, individuals in South Australia can confidently navigate the return to work process and reclaim their place in the workforce.



(Disclaimer: The above information is to the best of our knowledge true and accurate at the time of writing (March, 2024.) The scheme and entitlements may change and it is essential that you seek appropriate advice from ReturnToWorkSA directly or a lawyer for your specific circumstances and entitlements.)



Bültmann, U., Franche, R. L., Hogg-Johnson, S., Côté, P., Lee, H., Severin, C., & Krause, N. (2007). Health status, work limitations, and return-to-work trajectories in injured workers with musculoskeletal disorders. *Quality of Life Research, 16*(7), 1167-1178. DOI: 10.1007/s11136-007-9205-8.

Franche, R. L., Cullen, K., Clarke, J., Irvin, E., Sinclair, S., & Frank, J. (2005). Workplace-based return-to-work interventions: a systematic review of the quantitative literature. *Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 15*(2), 607-631. DOI: 10.1007/s10926-005-8038-8.

MacEachen, E., Clarke, J., Franche, R. L., & Irvin, E. (2006). Systematic review of the qualitative literature on return to work after injury. *Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 32*(4), 257-269. DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.1009.