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2.3.1 Rehabilitation Definitions
Section 4 of the SRCA defines a rehabilitation program in both medical and vocational terms as:
"Rehabilitation program includes medical, dental, psychiatric and hospital services (whether on an in-patient or out-patient basis), physical training and exercise, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and vocational training"
Section 4 of the SRCA defines suitable employment as:
"Suitable employment, in relation to an employee who has suffered an injury in respect of which compensation is payable under this Act, means:
(a) in the case of an employee who was a permanent employee of the Commonwealth or a licensee on the day on which he or she was injured and who continues to be so employed – employment by the Commonwealth or the licensed corporation, as the case may be in work for which the employee is still suited having regard to:
(i) the employee's age, experience, training language and other skills;
(ii) the employee's suitability for rehabilitation or vocational retraining;
(iii) where employment is available in a place that would require the employee to change his or her place of residence – whether it reasonable to expect the employee to change his or her place of residence; and
(iv) any other relevant matter; and
(b) in any other case – any employment including self-employment), having regard to the matters specified in subparagraphs (a)(i), (ii), (iii) and (iv)"
A delegate must have regard to the definition of suitable employment when determining whether work is suitable for a person.
In making this assessment, regard must be paid to all four criteria and the individual circumstances of the person.
(i) the person's age, experience, training, language and other skills
This criterion makes it necessary to have regard to the person's employment background. For example, if a former RAAF General Hand was injured to the extent that their work prospects were limited to sedentary office-based work, such work would be inappropriate if the person had poor literacy and numeracy skills. Similarly, work as a cleaner would generally not be considered suitable work for a former RAAF pilot or skilled Officer Engineer.
(ii) the person's suitability for rehabilitation or vocational retraining
This criterion is generally guided by a formal rehabilitation assessment, as per section 36 of the SRCA, of a person's capacity for rehabilitation. A rehabilitation assessment examines a person's transferable skills in relation to the local labour market. If there is a gap between a person's transferable skills and the availability of work commensurate with the person's pre-injury vocational status, then retraining may be appropriate.
The former RAAF General Hand in the example above may be provided with literacy and office skills training as part of a rehabilitation program, and therefore become suitable for clerical work.
A highly trained RAAF pilot has already demonstrated the ability to undertake training. If that pilot is unable to fly due to their service injury or disease, s/he would be suitable for retraining for new employment at a level commensurate with their previous capacity.
There may be occasions where, due to the nature of the service injury or disease, a person is so severely impaired that they are not suitable for rehabilitation in a vocational sense. However it is envisaged that these cases will be rare.
(iii) if work is available in a place that would require the person to change his or her place of residence – whether it is reasonable to expect the person to change his or her place of residence
If it is unreasonable for a person to move, the work would not be suitable work. Factors affecting the reasonableness of a requirement to move could include:
- continuity of school attendance for the person's children;
- existing or potential work of the person's spouse;
- availability of family support;
- long-standing social networks;
- continuing contact with children after marital separation;
- availability of appropriate and affordable housing; or
- access to medical services.
Where a person moves to an area of low work without a reasonable explanation, such as the reasons listed above, it may be appropriate to consider suitable work in either the new location or the previous location.
In some circumstances, assistance with removal costs may be considered where a person is required to relocate because they have secured suitable employment in a new location. Refer to section 9.12.4 for further information about when relocation assistance might be appropriate.
(iv) any other relevant matter
This criterion encompasses a wide variety of individual circumstances in the person's case. It includes all the person's medical restrictions, whether or not they arise out of the person's compensable condition.
For example, a motor mechanic with recurrent shoulder problems may not be considered suitable for work in a workshop where they are required to regularly work, on vehicles on hoists, above shoulder height. This is irrespective of whether the shoulder condition is compensable.
When considering a person's capacity for work, it is also appropriate to consider the availability of work that is suitable given the state of the local labour market.