Return to New Employment Incentives

Project dates: 23/03/2020 - 30/06/2020

This project aimed to recommenced a suitable framework to define and structure any potential incentive arrangement, provide an understanding of the effectiveness of different behaviour change levers, and design a Return To Work (RTW) incentive program that is supported by the recommended framework.

Why is this important?

WorkCover Queensland (WorkCover) is dedicated to helping previously injured workers to achieve their full potential by providing the support they need while recovering, and then helping them back into employment. Despite an impressive RTW rate of 94%, there were still 6% who were deemed fit to work and have not yet returned. Many of these workers had found themselves unable to return to their previous positions, and so are re-entering the labour market to seek new employment. WorkCover wished to support these workers in their search for new employment, through the introduction of an incentives framework to encourage employers who intended to employ recovering workers on a durable and sustainable employment arrangement. In order to determine the ideal incentive framework however, there was a need for an evidence-base to be established which examined incentive rules, past best practice, unintended consequences, moral hazards, and considerations for future research and design work.

What did we do?

The research approach that was undertaken for this project followed the service design framework, which is a well-validated and successful behaviour change approach that is used to develop new solutions to old problems and provide holistic and multifaceted answers to research questions. The project was divided into three key phases: scoping, desktop review and engagement.

Phase 1 – Scoping:

BEST and WorkCover worked together to finalise the problem identification and scoping for the project. Specific areas of interest to be investigated during the desktop review were also established.

Phase 2 – Desktop Review:

A desktop review was then conducted to uncover evidence around previous approaches from behavioural economics, cognitive psychology, and related areas that deal with behaviour change – specifically as relevant to incentive programs similar to the one proposed. Following this, the review included best practice examples across multiple industries, culminating in a recommended framework for the design of the WorkCover incentive program.

Phase 3 – Engagement:

During a one-week time period, members of the BEST research team engaged with WorkCover intensely across two dedicated days. Day 1 was an educational session discussing the findings of the literature review and the recommended framework. Day 2 involved a hands-on co-design workshop where the research team and WorkCover collaborated to co-design ideas for their incentive approach by applying the evidence from the desktop review in a service thinking session.


For more information about this project, please email:

Funding / Grants

  • Funded by WorkCover Queensland - WCQ220 (2020 - 2020)

Chief Investigators


Other Partners

WorkCover Queensland