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Managing and mitigating suffering in the return-to-work process


Woods, M and Matthewson, ML, Managing and mitigating suffering in the return-to-work process, Frontiers in Psychology, 12 Article 805855. ISSN 1664-1078 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2021 Woods and Matthewson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License ( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

DOI: doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.805855


Each year thousands of workers experience a serious illness or injury that necessitates time off work and a subsequent re-engagement with the work environment. In Australia, workers’ compensation legislation mandates the return-to-work (RTW) process is formal, structured, and negotiated between the worker, their employer, health care professionals and their RTW coordinator. How this is executed by those parties directly influences whether the RTW process is supportive and successful, or exacerbates the suffering of returning workers by causing them to feel ostracised, exposed, and vulnerable in their workplace. In this article, we examine how the RTW process can cause physical, emotional, social, and existential suffering for returning workers. We then discuss how the suffering that workers experience can be mitigated by five key factors: clarity of roles in the RTW process, alignment of worker and employer expectations, the advocacy provided by the RTW coordinator, the support provided for the worker’s psychological wellbeing, and the RTW literacy of supervisors and colleagues.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:return-to-work, suffering, wellbeing, injury, workplace health and safety
Research Division:Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Research Group:Human resources and industrial relations
Research Field:Workplace wellbeing and quality of working life
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Work and labour market
Objective Field:Workplace safety
UTAS Author:Woods, M (Dr Megan Woods)
UTAS Author:Matthewson, ML (Dr Mandy Matthewson)
ID Code:148404
Year Published:2021
Deposited By:Management
Deposited On:2022-01-06
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:8 View Download Statistics

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