Voluntary Rehabilitation Programme
for Employees Injured at Work

Voluntary Rehabilitation Programme
Jointly launched by the Labour Department and the insurance industry, the Voluntary Rehabilitation Programme (VRP) aims at providing injured employees with timely and free rehabilitation services for a speedier recovery and an early return to work under safe circumstances.

The participating insurers in the VRP would identify appropriate work injury cases, initiate contacts with the injured employees and invite them to join the programme. The participating insurers or their appointed loss adjusters will provide rehabilitation services to the injured employees, including drawing up an effective rehabilitation plan to facilitate them to receive appropriate treatment as early as possible.

Points to Note for Employees
The VRP provides injured employees with an additional channel to receive free medical evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation services provided by the participating insurers or their appointed loss adjusters through medical / rehabilitation organisations in the private sector. Aside from facilitating the injured employees to receive timely treatment of their injuries, the VRP is conducive to their speedier recovery and the alleviation of the permanent impairment resulting from their injuries. With the care given by others, the injured employees may not only better recover and regain their confidence, but also resume their post earlier. Under the VRP, the participating insurers will pay for all the rehabilitation services (including medical treatment). The injured employees need not shoulder any costs in this respect.

“Work Trial” Arrangement
Return-to-work (or “Work Trial”) is the arrangement of transitional work for injured employees (i.e. light duties which are suitable and have no impact on the employees’ medical condition) during the rehabilitation process. This may not only help the injured employees recover and regain confidence at work, but also help them better adapt to the post upon their recovery.

Where the attending doctor has certified that the injured employee is fit for “Work Trial”, rehabilitation professionals (e.g. specialist doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and registered nurses, etc.) will recommend “Work Trial” for the injured employee in appropriate circumstances. The attending doctor will specify the detailed arrangements of “Work Trial”, such as the nature of work, hours of work and duration of “Work Trial”, etc. The concerned insurer and employer will then work out the necessary arrangements. As “Work Trial” will only be appropriately arranged where the injured employee has been certified by the attending doctor as being fit for undertaking the relevant work, and it is an integral part of the rehabilitation process, the work so arranged should not adversely affect the employee’s recovery.

Periodical Payments for “Work Trial” period
If an injured employee is unable to resume his full earning capacity during the “Work Trial” period and earns less than before the accident, he is entitled to periodical payments during this period of “temporary incapacity” in accordance with the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance (ECO). The amount of periodical payments equals to four-fifths of the difference between the employee’s monthly earnings at the time of the accident and his monthly earnings during the period of temporary incapacity.

Example

Assuming that the monthly earnings of an injured employee at the time of the accident is $10,000 and his monthly earnings during the work trial period is $6,000, then the amount of periodical payments during the 1-month work trial period should be $3,200, i.e. ($10,000 - $6,000) x 4/5. Together with the $6,000 salary earned during the work trial period, the injured employee should be paid a total of $9,200 for that month.

Injured Employees’ Right to Claim
Participation in the VRP will not affect the rights and benefits of the injured employees under the ECO. Their entitlements to statutory compensation will still be calculated in accordance with the ECO. Assessment of permanent incapacity will continue to be conducted by the Employees’ Compensation Assessment Board appointed by the Commissioner for Labour in accordance with the ECO.

Injured employees should actively participate in the rehabilitation programme and respect the advice of the rehabilitation professionals. They have the right to make a request to the insurers for access to their rehabilitation reports. To enable the attending doctors / hospitals to have a better understanding on the recovery of the employees, insurers may provide rehabilitation reports to the doctors / hospitals with prior consent from the employees. Injured employees should note that the loss adjusters responsible for investigating their claim cases may also access to the rehabilitation progress reports and case closure reports with their consent, as well as the medical reports obtained under their consent, so as to advise the insurers in respect of the claims.

Participation of injured employees in the VRP is entirely voluntary. They can decide on their own whether to accept the insurers’ invitation or not. If they have difficulties in continuing with the programme after joining, they may withdraw from it at any time.

Insurers’ Role
The participating insurers or their appointed loss adjusters will arrange the injured employees to receive rehabilitation services from medical / rehabilitation organisations in the private sector. The concerned rehabilitation professionals are qualified health care professionals registered under the relevant Ordinances. In general, rehabilitation services may include medical treatment, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, etc. The types of rehabilitation services to be provided would depend on the injured employees’ individual circumstances and needs.

The Rehabilitation Process
The rehabilitation process may vary taking into account individual circumstances and needs. Typical processes involve initial assessment on the medical conditions of the injured employees by rehabilitation professionals, formulation of an effective rehabilitation plan and explanation of the plan to the employees.

An injured employee may be invited to give written consent to the insurer or loss adjuster to obtain medical reports from his attending doctor / hospital. If the situation so warrants, the rehabilitation professionals may also accompany the employee to attend medical follow-ups after obtaining his consent, in order to consult the attending doctor whether any rehabilitation services could helpfully be provided at the insurer’s expenses. However, the rehabilitation professionals should wait until the completion of the treatment and consultation before meeting the attending doctor together with the employee, so as to avoid impinging on doctor-patient confidentiality.

“Injury Management Coordinators”
The participating insurers will appoint an “Injury Management Coordinator” to coordinate and follow up with the injured employees and parties concerned in the course of the running of the rehabilitation programme. For example, the Coordinator will liaise with the injured employee and rehabilitation professionals in the initial stage, then follow up with the communication between the injured employee and his supervisor, and coordinate the arrangement of “Work Trial” to ensure that the injured employee can participate in the work trial smoothly and safely. The Coordinator should spare no efforts in facilitating the early recovery of the injured employee, without any involvement in the investigation work of the insurance claim.

Employers’ Support
Employers should encourage and support their injured employees’ participation in the VRP.

Employers’ care and active cooperation may not only expedite the recovery of their injured employees, but also facilitate their early return to work, thereby lessening the negative impact of the work accidents upon the employees, enhancing the employees’ sense of belonging, boosting their morale and improving labour relations. In addition, regular communication between the management and staff through the VRP can help foster their relationship, enhance the employers’ productivity and strengthen staff management.

During the sick leave period of their injured employees, apart from being required to effect periodical payments, the employers may need to hire replacement workers. This involves significant time and costs in respect of recruitment, training and adaptation to the work process. Hence, the injured employees’ early return to work after receiving timely treatment would effectively reduce the corporate costs and lessen the negative impact on the organisations’ daily operation.

If the attending doctor certifies that the injured employee is fit for “Work Trial”, the employer should make appropriate arrangements as far as possible. During the “Work Trial” period, the employer and the injured employee should communicate and work closely with the “Injury Management Coordinator” and rehabilitation professionals to ensure a smooth and safe “Work Trial”, so as to help the injured employee regain confidence towards work and re-adapt to the post.

Insurers participating in the VRP
At present, there are more than ten insurers participating in the VRP. For details, please contact the branch offices of the Employees’ Compensation Division of the Labour Department, or click here to acquire a list of insurers who have participated in the VRP.

Enquiry
Enquiries on the VRP can be directed to the relevant branch offices of the Employees’ Compensation Division of the Labour Department.

Address of the Branch Offices of the Employees’ Compensation Division

Hong Kong Office
(cases on Hong Kong Island, outlying Islands and outside Hong Kong)

Room 1605, 16/F, Southorn Centre, 130 Hennessy Road, Hong Kong.
Kowloon Office
(cases in Kowloon, Sai Kung and cases involving seamen and government employees)
Room 1007, 10/F, Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Kowloon.
Tsuen Wan Office
(cases in Kwai Chung, Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long)
6/F, Tsuen Wan Government Offices, 38 Sai Lau Kok Road, Tsuen Wan, New Territories.
Shatin Office
(cases in Shatin, Taipo, Fanling and North District)
Room 239, 2/F, Shatin Government Offices, 1 Sheung Wo Che Road, Shatin, New Territories.