Return to Work
Getting back to work – we believe in your potential for enjoying work.
As you adjust to life after a spinal cord impairment, you may feel uncertain whether returning to work will be possible. Our team are here to help and provide support for you to talk about, to consider and, when it’s right, to get back to work. Our team has considerable experience working in this area and understand it can be an uncertain and challenging time.
Our specialist return to work service team is based at both the Burwood and Auckland Spinal units – Let us help support a positive future for you and your whānau.
While you’re focusing hard on your medical and physical rehab it can be reassuring to talk with someone about work and what that might look like in the future.
Our team of consultants is here to help you to explore work options following your SCI, whether you want to return to your existing job or want to explore something new.
We provide a friendly and encouraging opportunity to talk with someone who understands many of the issues and concerns that you might face when thinking about work, including looking at study options, doing career planning, liaising with an employer, helping to remove barriers and planning a gradual return to work.
We are part of the rehab team at the Auckland and Christchurch spinal units and can work with you from early in your rehabilitation, while you are on the spinal ward and can continue to support you when you go home if you live in the greater Christchurch or Auckland/Waikato areas. We provide on-going individual career coaching and support while encouraging mana motuhake – autonomy and choice – as much as possible. We recognise and value the inclusion of whānau and employers from the outset.
Meet the team
Deb Le Cren
Deb, Vocational Rehabilitation Manager and Senior Vocational Consultant, joined the team in July 2011 and is based at Burwood. Deb is an experienced career coach with over 20 years’ experience of working with people from a variety of backgrounds. She started her career in the NZ Air Force as a psychologist, was a Special Projects Advisor for the NZ Employment Service, worked to assist people rehabilitating from injuries and is also a self-employed career consultant.
Noretta, a Senior Vocational Consultant joined the team in March 2014 and is based at the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit. Noretta has had extensive experience providing vocational rehabilitation services for people who have sustained injuries, which has included working as a self-employed Vocational Consultant in the South Auckland area. She has previous experience as a Recruitment Consultant – specialising in co-ordinating placements within the Industrial sector.
Kate is a Vocational Consultant based at the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit. She joined the NZST in November 2019 and her background includes working with ACC where she identified and prepared clients for work post-injury. She also worked at Workbridge (a nationwide not for profit agency) for 6 years assisting people with disabilities into work. This involved identifying individual skills and supporting clients vocationally into sustainable employment.
Guidance for Clients
Becoming a Return-to-Work client
Eligibility for our Service
To be eligible to engage our service you must have an acquired spinal cord injury or illness (SCI). You may be receiving funding from ACC or MOH.
If you are unsure, please contact one of our offices and a consultant will be very happy to discuss this with you in confidence.
We believe in your potential for enjoying work!
To support your work goals here’s what you need to know:
• We will support you getting back to work, providing specialist knowledge in not only navigating the world of work but also spinal cord impairment.
• You control the process – which helps to promote independence, we will not just help you to get where you want to go, but we will also provide you with the tools to use for the future.
We have over 20 years of experience supporting clients, our philosophy is always the bigger picture. It’s about what you can do, not what you can’t!
When returning to work you will:
• Have a better income
• Get more social interaction
• Attain enhanced wellbeing
• Improve your self-esteem and a sense of achievement
• Be a role model for family and friends
If you would like support to write or update your CV or cover letter or want help to prepare for an interview, or deal with the issue of your disability, then please contact one of our team.
Information for Employers
“I have my whole life ahead of me and I’m keen to work because that is what living a normal life is all about.”
The evidence is indisputable – work is good for health and wellbeing.
Returning to work or commencing new employment for our clients should be a societal expectation post injury. One in nearly 4 New Zealanders, or 25% of our population has a disability, so there are many people with a unique set of skills and perspectives that bring value to organisations, communities, and the economy. Of the spinal population we work with, most people require little to no extra support or investment to fulfil their role.
Two things that we know for sure at the NZ Spinal Trust are that disabled people make great employees and that an accessible workplace is safer for everyone. Since the inauguration of our return-to-work service in 2003, we have moved from 12.3% of spinal cord impaired clients being employed to 45.8%. ‘Why not enhance your profile, increase the statistics and be part of this!’
Benefits to employers for employing a disabled employee are:
• By increasing your disability inclusion, you are increasing the organisation’s chance to connect with disabled customers.
• Disabled people stay with employers on average 50% longer.
• Bringing disability into the workplace strengthens culture.
• Your organisation will more appropriately represent the make-up of NZ society.
• Statistics prove that disabled people take less sick leave.
• When staff know you care for everyone and customers see that you care for everyone this improves and enhances your reputation.
• Disabled people bring unique perspectives and skillsets to the workplace enhancing productivity.
• Having disabled people on your team has been shown to improve health and safety outcomes.
We can help by providing:
• Education on spinal cord issues and accessibility factors either 1:1 or group based.
• Immediate access to information and support by phone or going through the NZST webpage.
• Support in transitioning your injured employee back to work and providing support with a return-to-work plan and monitoring of progress.
Join the Accessibility Tick Programme
The Accessibility Tick is the flagship of the NZ Disability Employers’ Network. The programme helps New Zealand organisations become more accessible and inclusive of disabled and neurodiverse people. By joining the accessibility tick programme you will be provided with the tools and expertise and an action plan that is aligned with your business plan and strategic objectives, and to be confident that you will have the support to deliver on it.