The objective of this study was to examine the impact of three workplace actions on return to work (RTW) following a musculoskeletal (MSK) or psychological injury. The three workplace actions were: a positive supervisor or co-worker response at the time of injury; a low stress interaction with the workplace RTW coordinator; and an offer of modified duties. We used a longitudinal cohort of 869 Victorian workers’ compensation claimants. Respondents were interviewed at baseline (approximately 4 months after injury), and again 6 and 12 months later. Our analytical sample was 703 respondents who had complete information on all workplace factors and potential covariates. Of our sample, 40% of respondents reported all three positive workplace actions and 12% reported none of the positive actions. Using a potential outcomes modelling approach, we estimated difference in RTW rates at baseline, 6 months and 12 months if all respondents received all positive actions, versus all respondents received no positive actions. Inverse probability weights were used to balance the sample in relation to covariates including respondent age, sex, injury time, time since injury, workplace size, pre-injury job autonomy and pre-injury physical demands at work. At baseline, if all respondents received all three workplace actions, 51% of respondents would have sustained RTW compared to 22% if all respondents received none of the actions. At 6 months the comparable rates were 73% versus 46%, and 67% versus 50% at 12 months. Our study demonstrates the importance of the workplace actions on RTW rates at multiple points following injury.
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