Injury in the workplace can happen out of nowhere, and it’s unfortunate that most organisations and companies don’t have the necessary tools or strategies in place to effectively deal with it. In the case of workplace injury, it is important for the employer to have a plan in place before its required and while some cases are straight forward, there are a good majority of cases that require further discussion and resolution.
People do not like being put in a position whereby personal injury in the workplace is questioned, assessed or investigated and so understanding the importance of using dispute resolution techniques to minimize the distress and disruption for everyone as much of the case as possible, is of paramount importance.
Most individuals who feel let down by their workplace can be emotionally charged, and want to take the matter straight to the union, Fair Work Commission or court. But we know that court takes time, money and many times as the outcome is now in the hands of the judge, the preferred outcome for the employee nor the employer is not always ordered.
In contrast, mediation can be the solution needed to address all the concerns of the employee and employer, end the conflict and bring both back to a happy and healthy working relationship. At the mediation the terms of return to work and any performance issues are agreed upon so everyone can move forward irrespective of whether or not a work cover claim is accepted. Mediation is also much more likely to make sure that everyone can come to an agreement without the financially arduous, time consuming and stress inducing experience involved in taking the case to court.
The process of Workplace Mediations in Injury Cases
Workplace mediation can be recommended and referred by the mobile claims specialist or GP or initiated at the request of the employer or injured worker. The process tends to start with both the injured worker and the Return to Work Co-ordinator, HR or supervisor chatting separately with the Mediator, outlining the facts, discussing the current situation and how the situation has arisen from their own perspectives. The mediator will explain the process of the mediation and the steps to finding a resolution in the joint session. This helps both parties to feel comfortable moving into a joint meeting with each other and being best prepared for the dispute resolution session. It is also the opportunity to make sure that the necessary and relevant people are present at the mediation.
The aim of mediation is to achieve a sustainable outcome and not a 48 hour fix. The mediator gives everyone in the joint session of mediation the opportunity to raise all their concerns and then work through those concerns. So, the concerns listed by everyone becomes the agenda items for discussion at the meeting. The mediator asks questions of both parties so everyone can understand the situation from everyone’s perspective and determine what the next steps might be, and evaluate the options generated in the meeting. It’s about open communication, moving through the facts, and feelings associated with the injury and consequences of the injury, ultimately finding resolution to be implemented as soon as the GP for the injured worker gives the go ahead.
Emotions and Business are hard to navigate
While for a company or organisation business continues without the injured worker, the emotions of the injured worker require attention from the employer. It is not uncommon for communication to break down quickly after the injury is being treated. Out of sight sometimes means out of mind. Employers and their management team sometimes forget to remain in contact with the injured worker. Other times employers don’t know whether or not to contact an injured worker and fear being accused of harassment or for ‘legal reasons’. Workplace injury is very personal and workers appreciate being contacted to find out how they are getting along. Similarly, the employer likes to be kept informed regularly. Claims agents are under the pump managing many cases. It’s important that communication by both the employer and the employee with each other is maintained throughout the treatment and recovery time – don’t just expect to leave it to the claims agent. People want to feel valued, and if they are injured in the workplace, they are wanting the contact to remain connected. Business needs to know what is going on so it can make arrangements and plan. Everyone needs to keep talking about the situation and the future. Workplace injury is a people dispute, not just a business dispute. The way an organisation or company responds to a workplace injury becomes part of their culture and brand. Employees matter to the business. The business matters to the injured worker. Keep up communication and keep it about the recovery and way forward for all.