Changes to the guidelines for Workplace Return to Work Programs

Are you ready? New Return to work program requirements for NSW.

In May 2017, significant reforms were implemented in respect to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) Guidelines for Workplace Return to Work Programs. The guidelines are underpinned by components of the Workers Compensation Act (1987), Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act (1998) and the Workers Compensation Regulations (2016).

Workplaces that operate within New South Wales are required to have a Return to Work (RTW) Program that details how your business will safely return employees to work post-injury in a durable and effective manner. These Programs are expected to be in operation within 12 months of your business commencing its operations and are expected to be reviewed when changes to the Guidelines, Legislation or Business Operations arise – or at minimum every two years. There are also additional expectations placed upon businesses who are considered to be a Category-1 employer.

Who is a Category 1 employers?

  • The employer has a basic tariff premium over $50,000, or
  • The employer is self-insured, or
  • The employer is insured by a specialised insurer and has over 20 employees.

As detailed within the Guidelines for Workplace Return to Work Programs; “establishing a return to work program doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does take commitment from the employer and their workers to do things right”. The recent changes made to the Guidelines for Workplace Return to Work Programs were of both a structure and policy basis; meaning there is now an added expectation for these programs to be easier to understand to the lay worker and add a further expectation on the employer to consult with workers and unions in development of the Program (for example).

From 31st May 2019 – all NSW business operations will need to comply with the changes made to the Guidelines for Workplace Return to Work Programs. If your current Return to Work Program was not developed in alignment with these changes, or they have not been reviewed since May 2017; you will be required to review these Programs or risk being non-compliant with the Regulators obligations and expectations.

Our very own Saunders Safety & Training (SS&T) division has the expertise required to assist our clients in meeting these obligations and expectations set out by SIRA. Through this dedicated Safety Division; a detailed review and analysis of your current Program can be undertaken with view to the development of a compliant Program if and where required. Meeting and surpassing these expectations set out by SIRA can only increase workplace safety culture and mitigate workplace associated risks.

For more information on workplace risk and best-practice workplace rehabilitation, or to obtain a summary copy of the changes, please contact us on (02) 9857 3500 or email at

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