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Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation is a planned series of activities with the goal of getting an individual back to work after an injury or health setback. 

Individuals may be out of work as a result of an acquired disability or long-term health problem, or they may want to retain their current job and stay with the same employer. 

Our vocational rehabilitation action plans are underpinned by a thorough assessment of the individual and their wider context and situation, as different people will require different levels and different types of input.

We are normally funded by insurers or occupational health / HR departments.  We initially provide a comprehensive assessment report and a return to work action plan. If relevant, we also provide advice on job re-design, retraining and job retention.

Our reports are designed to be of value to both the employer, insurance company as well as the individual.

Successful claims handling is more than maximising or minimising compensation

Arranging compensation for accident victims is not enough. Claimant solicitors are now expected to help Claimants rebuild their lives as soon as possible, and insurance companies have agreed to pay for reasonable rehabilitation services.

'The Revised Rehabilitation Code' is supported by all the main associations for insurers and personal injury lawyers (including APIL & FOIL).   The purpose of the code is to encourage both sides in a dispute to consider how the Claimant can be helped to rebuild their life.  It puts the Claimant at the centre of the process and is viewed as a priority. 

The document sets out the role of the suitably qualified and experienced 'independent assessor', which is to determine rehabilitation needs and recommendations. Our team of occupational psychologists and vocational rehabilitation professionals is well equipped to provide a comprehensive and helpful report.

Different aspects of the assessment:

  • Functional restrictions caused by the disability / health issue, for example: mobility, side effects of medication, chronic pain
  • Emotional resilience, drive, aspirations, attitude, focus
  • Temperament and interests, self-awareness of strengths and development needs
  • Basic skills - for example: literacy and numeracy
  • Clarity of verbal and written communication
  • Interpersonal/social skills
  • Cognitive ability, retraining potential and learning style, e.g. dyslexia assessment
  • Individuals factors, such as previous working pattern, criminal record
  • If with an organisation, we would also examine a range of reasonable adjustments, other jobs available in employing organisation, and the wider labour market context

Some of these can be more objectively assessed than others. However, a report that attempts to consider each of the above factors and makes appropriate recommendations is extremely useful for helping the individual make an assessment of what is realistic for them. In addition, the report will also provide advice to the instructing agent on how to facilitate a positive outcome and manage the key transitions into work, into a new job with the same firm, or in some cases, out of work.

We give clear objective advice on whether a return to work is realistic, e.g. are there reasonable adjustments that can be made in the circumstances.  

Typical barriers to returning to work and remaining in work include:

  • Direct and indirect effects of the disability ; for example, mobility restrictions, depression, lack of confidence
  • Lack of knowledge of alternative careers
  • Lack of appreciation of abilities and potential and where to go to for support or assistance
  • Poor self-awareness, with the result that inappropriate jobs are targeted.
  • Mixed incentives - maybe concerned about having benefits or insurance cover stopped prematurely if they present as too capable
  • Few or no jobs available with their current skill set or their current level of functioning
  • Poor job-hunting methods, e.g., presentation of disability and its implications.
  • Inability to manage the disability in the work place; for example, lack of appropriate office furniture
  • Lack of sufficient training for the job
  • Negative attitude of employer
  • Intellectual (e.g. dyslexia), emotional, functional, physical and interpersonal barriers

These barriers can result in the individual becoming disheartened, especially if they try work and it proves unsuccessful.

Impact of litigation

In addition, there are some practical ways in which litigation itself can impact negatively on successful rehabilitation and return to work of Claimants.

Recognition of suffering

For some Claimants, sympathetic recognition of their suffering can be very important. Even when liability has been admitted, the litigation process does not encourage the individual or organisation at fault to apologise and to acknowledge the Claimant's loss. Instead, the system encourages denial. Such behaviour can leave Claimants suspended in their anger. With appropriate communication this can be resolved.

Blame versus taking responsibility

Litigation obliges people to blame others for their accident. Individuals are drawn into a process by which they place the burden of their losses at the door of someone else. Studies suggest that poor individual adjustment after injury may be strongly related to acknowledgement of blame. Where blame is not overtly acknowledged, the injured individual can feel an added sense of injustice. The practical impact is that the Claimant becomes emotionally 'stuck', perhaps seeing the end of litigation as the only way he or she can move on.

Focus on losses and symptoms

Litigation, by its nature, causes a focus on the negative, which can encourage a mindset of powerlessness and passivity. To claim compensation, it is essential to determine the losses the Claimant has suffered. There is a focus, therefore, on what someone has lost. Individual Claimants have said that this can become quite depressing. If not well- handled, the litigation process can inhibit people from moving on and adapting to their new situation by keeping them focussed firmly in the past.

Lack of trust

This is important where an insurance company is funding any rehabilitation. A Claimant may mistrust the motives of a funding insurance company. Without trust, the Claimant's commitment and compliance with any agreed regimen will be poor, with a correspondingly negative impact on successful outcome. With the right approach, trust can be developed.

Medical experts

The medical professionals involved in providing expert evidence to the courts report medical outcomes in stark clear terms, based on the balance of probability. These medical reports can make very upsetting and depressing reading for the Claimant, especially if there is a pessimistic prognosis.

Burden of litigation

The process of litigation can be draining. We have heard Claimants say that they will see the claim through before they make significant changes to their life. They don't have the emotional energy to contemplate making the changes they know are necessary, including retraining for work.

Timing - not leaving it too late

The need for initial vocational rehabilitation may be before the medical condition is stable and before the insurers are ready to pay for it. For example, an early discussion of career options can be useful in preparing the ground for acceptance of the need for retraining; or an early approach to the employer once the extent of the disability is known, with the aim of keeping a job open. These needs can arise before issues of liability and causation, have been clarified. In addition, there is an optimum window of opportunity in which the individual will most readily respond to assistance. If left too long, the individual may become despondent; or their support structures may collapse , for example, as in marital breakdown.

Final comment

Dealing with these issues appropriately will make it more likely that the injured Claimant will make a successful transition to work, and in the process, allow them to better re-build their lives, or help prevent their situation from deteriorating.