Employer’s 52-Week Obligation when an Injury Occurs

52 Week Obligation

We don’t need to tell you that there are a lot of responsibilities that come with being a business owner. In addition to running your company, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your team; you have an obligation to provide them with a safe work environment. 

With the right precautions, you can minimise risk and prevent injuries. But if an injury does occur, there are more obligations you should be aware of. One of the most important is the 52 week obligation to provide work. 

This benefits both you and your employee as it helps expedite the return to work process and can reduce the need for additional staff or lost productivity. It’s important to understand exactly what this obligation entails and what it means for you and your business. 

What is the 52 Week Obligation?

Under current legislation, when an employee suffers a work related injury, their employer is obligated to provide them with employment after the injury. This employment must be suitable for their injury or consistent with their pre-injury work, and must be provided for a period of 52 weeks. 

Put simply, an employer cannot terminate an injured worker after a work-related incident. They must make reasonable accommodations for the employee to continue working to the best of their ability for at least a year. 

Let’s break down what that means for you.

Provide Employment

After an injury, your employee may or may not be able to continue working to their full capacity. One of their first stops should be to a doctor who will evaluate their condition and give recommendations on what they can and cannot do. These recommendations will be documented in their Certificate of Capacity. 

If a worker has a limit on the type of work they can do, you will need to provide suitable employment for them. They may be unable to complete some of their duties, may need reduced hours, or may need special tools or accommodations. 

Suitable employment addresses these issues with the proper adjustments so that the worker can complete work to the best of their ability without hindering recovery. 

Once the worker has regained their full capacity for work, you will need to provide pre-injury employment. This means they will return to their role as it was before they were injured. 

Employment Obligation Period 

This obligation for employment lasts 52 weeks and begins when one of several things happens. The 52 weeks starts on the earliest of the following dates: 

  • The date you receive a valid Certificate of Capacity from the employee
  • The date you are notified by your Work Safe Agent that the employee has provided a Certificate of Capacity 
  • The date you receive a claim from the employee for weekly compensation payments
  • The date you are notified by your WorkSafe Agent that the employee has made a claim for weekly compensation payments

Once it begins, the obligation continues for 52 weeks, though those weeks may not be consecutive. It will include any periods during which your employee has an incapacity for work as a result of their injury. 

The obligation period does not include: 

  • Any period during which the worker does not have an incapacity for work
  • Any period during which a claim has been rejected and is awaiting court determination
  • Any period during which WorkSafe has set aside a claim decision and is awaiting recommendation from a Conciliation Officer 
  • Any period during which weekly payments are revoked until they resume again 
  • Any period during which a return to work improvement notice is issued to the employer by WorkSafe

While the periods listed above may not count towards this 52 week obligation period, it is recommended that the employer still provide suitable employment to the employee. This has been shown to help the return to work process, improve worker’s recovery, and ensure continuity for the business. 

After the Obligation

Once the 52 week obligation period has ended, employers are not automatically enabled to terminate their employees. Other labour and discrimination laws may still be applicable, in addition to Enterprise Bargaining Agreements. 

If you are able, continue to provide reasonable employment to your workers. This is good for morale and good for your business. Work with them and an employer health provider to find the best solution for you both. 

Employer Health Solutions is a great resource if you are navigating this 52 week period of obligation, or if you just want to stay up to date. No matter where you are in the process, we can answer questions, provide guidance, and help you fulfill your duties while protecting your business.