Following a spinal cord injury, you may feel like getting back to your job as soon as you can, or you may find that returning to work is the last thing on your mind. Depending on your circumstances, you may even feel that returning to work is not possible.
It's important to know that even after spinal cord injury you can work, and it can be satisfying and enjoyable.
It's healthy to be working
Regardless of whether you have a spinal cord injury or not, research has shown that people who work are healthier. Work gives us a sense of purpose, keeps us connected with others in our communities and helps us to take control in our lives.
What kind of work can I do?
The basic answer to this question is really 'whatever work you want to do!' Finding the job that you enjoy may mean changing the way you do things, or learning some different skills, but there are ways and means to work in a lot of different industries and environments. There are people in Australia (and around the world) who are working in all sorts of jobs, and have a spinal cord injury. These include, but are certainly not limited too (because in fact the list is endless):
- managing directors
- managing building firm
- personal assistants
- public speakers
- executive positions
How do I know if my boss will have me back?
The best thing to do is ask them! Keeping in contact with your preinjury employer is the single most effective thing you can do after injury to help you get back to work. There are vocational consultants in the SCI rehabilitation centres that can help you do this if you are a little nervous or not sure how to approach them. If you had your injury at work, there are laws in Victoria that your employer must abide by in terms of keeping work for you. If you did not have your injury at work, these rules do not apply, and that's why keeping in contact with your boss is important.
How do I apply for a job?
The process for getting a job now is exactly the same as before. You still need to apply for a job based on whether you think you have the skills to undertake it. Australia and Victoria have great resources that can help you find a job, and ensure that the environment is appropriate and suitable equipment is available to you to meet your needs. Recruitment agencies that specialise in disability may also be a useful contact for you, particularly if you need help with writing a resume or polishing up your interview skills.
What if working will effect my pension or loss of earnings payment?
There are limits on the number of hours you can work before your payments are affected but it's important to remember that working is good for you, and not just from a monetary point of view.
Currently if you receive the Disability Support Pension, you can work up to 15 hours without your work impacting on your payments. In the early stages of return to work it can be difficult to get the balance right between hours at work and hours getting ready for work. If you are not sure about how to get the balance right, you can contact a Disability Employment Service who can take you through a supported return to work process with your employer.
If you are a recipient of loss of earnings payment through TAC or Worksafe you should talk with your claims manager about returning to work and what this means for you financially. Often there are provisions for trialling return to work without impacting on your payments, and support for you if it does not work out. It is always worth talking with your social workers or claims managers about the options, as working is a positive part of your rehabilitation journey following SCI.
It may seem at times, that going back to work is not worth the effort, but the rewards are many including a strong sense of purpose, being connected to colleagues, socialising with friends, contributing to your community and taking control of your own livelihood.
For more information about government services that can assist you, a great place to start is Job Access. You can look on the website or give them a call and they will help you navigate the services available to you. Telephone: 1800 464 800