Occupational, Vocational and Study Guidelines

If you are facing a new future with illness or accident, it is sometimes hard to know what your options are for study or work. 

Elevate (Elevator Group)

Accident & Injury - Vocational Assessment process

If you are covered by ACC, then you will likely be put through their vocational assessment process. The first of these steps is meeting with an Occupational Assessor who will record your work and study history, and current limitations and transferable skills. They will then use this information to determine what roles you can still do, or alternatively new roles that yo
u might be able to do. 

Occupational assessors will use ACC Work Type Detail sheets to try to match your skills to the 565 job types on their database, as found here: http://www.acc.co.nz/for-providers/work-type-detail-sheets/index.htm

Here is an example:

Work Type Job Sheet - Sports Centre Manager

  • Organises, controls and promotes the activities, facilities and resources of a sports centre.
Work Tasks (may include any combination of the following):
  • Organises publicity to promote facilities and attract clients; selects, trains and supervises staff; schedules games and competitions; ensures facilities are properly maintained and conform to safety standards; may plan and organise catering facilities.
Work Environment:
  • Works indoors in offices associated with sport centres, recreation facilities and sports clubs.
  • Indoor work areas are adequately heated, ventilated and clean.

Work Function/Activity1:
  • Sedentary to medium demand levels with frequent sitting in offices or meetings.
  • Stands and walks frequently in office and sports centre to undertake training and supervision of staff and inspections of facilities.
  • Lifting and carrying is not a component feature of the job.
  • Bending, squatting or crouching and stretching, twisting, climbing is not a significant component of the job.
  • Occasional to frequent repetitive hand and finger movements are required when using hand-held objects/equipment including exercise equipment pens, calculators, telephones, keyboard and mouse.
  • Driving is not a significant component of the job.
  • Mental activities necessary include a high level of cognitive functioning with communication, interpersonal, administration, organisational, problem solving and decision-making capabilities.
Further Comments:
  • There are opportunities for flexibility of movement.
Entry Requirements:
A relevant tertiary qualification or at least five years applicable experience. In some instances particular experience and/or on-the-job training may be required.

All job types have this same layout and must take into account the same factors - eg. environment, mental and physical capacity, level of education/training. In some instances, where an existing work type detail sheet does not exist, your occupational assessor can create a new one to match what you were formally doing, or something that you believe you are capable of doing and submit this to ACC for approval. This process should be a collaborative effort between yourself and the assessor at all times. 

Following your appointment, your occupational assessor should send you through a copy of their recommendations and job types they believe you can do. You will then have a chance to comment on them and submit a reply to the assessor. It is worth noting though that, unlike the confidentiality you may get from a doctor, any comments you make here will be passed on to ACC, the vocational assessor and any future assessors as ACC sees fit; as well as being put on your file and permanently featuring on your assessment report.

I have attached to the bottom of this page a number of PDFs that outline both the process and the legislation that cover the entire ACC Vocational assessment process.

The first of these is the Occupational Assessors Guide, as below.

ACC12850 Occupational Assessors Guide:
This document is a comprehensive overview of the purpose, steps and legislation governing the occupational assessment process. This is well worth reading in full prior to assessment so you know what to expect and what resources you can contribute to ensure that all your needs are considered. It is worth remembering that only you can ensure that all relevant documents are sighted by assessors, and a phone call prior to your appointments to make sure these will be considered is well worth the time and effort. Doing so retrospectively can be hard, if not impossible. 

Following the completed Occupational Assessors report, you will see a Vocational Medical Assessor who will look at these job types and decide whether they believe them to medically sustainable, and in what capacity - eg. part time or full time. It is important to know which section of the Act you are being assessed under, and it is your right to know this before any assessments are undertaken. This is very important as the test of capacity is very different.

In short, there are two main categories - section 103 and section 105 (below). Section 103 is for those who were earners or on unpaid parental leave when injured. The test for this group is whether they can return to exactly the type of work they were doing at that time. This is therefore a pretty black and white test - either you can or you can't. It will depend largely therefore on the medical assessments you hold, and what those doctors or specialists have said.

Section 103

103    Corporation to determine incapacity of claimant who, at time of personal injury, was earner or on unpaid parental leave

(1)The Corporation must determine under this section the incapacity of—
(a)a claimant who was an earner at the time he or she suffered the personal injury:
(b)a claimant who was on unpaid parental leave at the time he or she suffered the personal injury.
(2)The question that the Corporation must determine is whether the claimant is unable, because of his or her personal injury, to engage in employment in which he or she was employed when he or she suffered the personal injury.
(3)If the answer under subsection (2) is that the claimant is unable to engage in such employment, the claimant is incapacitated for employment.
(4)The references in subsections (1) and (2) to a personal injury are references to a personal injury for which the person has cover under this Act.
(5)Subsection (4) is for the avoidance of doubt.

Section 105 however is not black and white and applies to those who were 'potential earners', non-earners or those who had purchased weekly compensation under section 223. 
The results and process for this section can leave a client very upset at the results, and here's why...

The test for this group is whether the client can work in any job. It does not therefore matter whether you have done this type of job before; whether it is above or below your previous levels of responsibilities; and takes no notice of whether it is even remotely in the same salary bracket as you may have been in previously. This is where that very cliché story of a lawyer being injured, and being put back into society as a shelf packer comes from, I'm sure. 

Section 105

105    Corporation to determine incapacity of certain claimants who, at time of incapacity, had ceased to be in employment, were potential earners, or had purchased weekly compensation under section 223

(1)The Corporation must determine under this section the incapacity of a claimant who—
(a)is deemed under clause 43 of Schedule 1 to continue to be an employee, a self-employed person, or a shareholder-employee, as the case may be; or
(b)is a potential earner; or
(c)has purchased the right to receive weekly compensation under section 223.
(2)The question that the Corporation must determine is whether the claimant is unable, because of his or her personal injury, to engage in work for which he or she is suited by reason of experience, education, or training, or any combination of those things.
(3)The references in subsection (2) to a personal injury are references to a personal injury for which the person has cover under this Act.
(4)Subsection (3) is for the avoidance of doubt.

It is absolutely vital that you bring along ALL medical reports that you believe to be relevant to this assessment, and that you make sure to call the Assessors office prior to the appointment to ensure that they will not only accept these documents, but that they will use them as part of their assessment process. It is not uncommon for assessors to state that they cannot use any documentation that has not been provided by ACC exclusively. If the assessor states that they cannot use your documentation then you need to ensure that ACC provide everything - you can do this by emailing your case manager with a list of documents you want included, or ask that a PDF of the documents you send through by email/post be added to their documents. Make sure you have a commitment in writing from your case manager that this will happen before your assessment. 

Another thing you must do is ask to view your list of covered injuries. This must be included in the documents sent through. For a lot of people, you may only have abrasions or broken bones as official covered injuries. If your brain injury or back injury, eg, is not officially covered it may not be included in your assessment. This can lead to a major difference in outcome, as below:

Scenario 1. Covered injury = facial abrasions and broken nose. Subsequent diagnoses of severe brain and back injuries. In this instance the medical assessor need only decide whether your abrasions and broken nose stop you from returning to work. Likely answer - of course not!

Scenario 2. Covered injuries = facial abrasions, broken nose, severe brain injury and back injury.  In this instance the medical assessor needs to take into account all your covered  injuries when deciding whether you can return to work. 

There are guidelines in place, and some legislation, that dictates that non-covered injuries and any other medical conditions always need to be taken into account when deciding on medical capacity. However, this means essentially placing your trust in a complete stranger to follow these guidelines, and in a lot of cases they simply won't. By pro-actively ensuring you have ticked all the boxes before your appointment, you are likely to leave feeling you have provided the basis for a fair assessment and that the assessor has got all the information needed to make an informed decision.

The Vocational Medical Assessor will then draw up a report and send it to ACC directly. In most cases, you or your GP will also recieve a copy.

The decision is black and white. Either 1) you can work 30 or more hours a week, or 2) you can't.
If you are assessed as the former, you will be dis-entitled to continue receiving accident compensation payments and will be put in touch with work assistance agencies, or need to take independent steps to secure work. You may be lucky and continue receiving payments for a few weeks, but generally speaking once you are assessed as being work fit, ACC no longer need to help you financially and so won't. 

The best advice in this scenario, especially if you do not agree with the decision, is to get in touch with WINZ. From personal experience they are usually not surprised to see cut-off ACC claimants in the queue who have been abruptly left to fend for themselves, usually with a list of medical problems that clearly make life difficult, and the option of work even harder. I have found them to be very supportive of disabled people and fast to put in place supports. Make sure you bring along all your medical notes so they can see what your diagnoses are, and what your needs and costs will be.

As with all ACC decisions, you are entitled to appeal decisions that you feel are unfair, as below. If your assessment has come back that you can work, or can work in a certain job, when you feel that there is a valid and justifiable reason that you can't, then you need to lodge an appeal with Disputes Resolution Services Ltd (DRSL) within 30 days of the decision. 

You will find a PDF of the appeal application ('review application') at the bottom of this page which you can print out or download.

ACC Legislation

63 Corporation must tell claimant about review rights
The Corporation must tell the claimant that he or she has the right to apply for a review of any of the Corporation's decisions on the claim, including a decision under section 58, and must do so at a time appropriate to enable the claimant to exercise the right.

For more information on the ACC appeal process with DRSL, please read this:

If your Vocational Assessment has come back stating that you are not capable of working 30 or more hours per week, but that you could work towards going back to some form of part time work, then you will be entitled to further vocational rehabilitation. When ACC feel fit, they may decide to have you assessed for Vocational independence - meaning that they feel that all injury-related barriers to obtaining or maintaining a job have been dealt with, and that they feel you are vocationally independent and can find work. If the result is that the assessor believes you have obtained this status, then you have three months before your financial entitlements are cut off in which to find work, or another source of income.

Vocational Independence

107    Corporation to determine vocational independence
(1)The Corporation may determine the vocational independence of—
(a)a claimant who is receiving weekly compensation:
(b)a claimant who may have an entitlement to weekly compensation.
(2)The Corporation determines a claimant's vocational independence by requiring the claimant to participate in an assessment carried out—
(a)for the purpose in subsection (3); and
(b)in accordance with sections 108 to 110 and clauses 24 to 29 of Schedule 1; and
(c)at the Corporation's expense.
(3)The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that comprehensive vocational rehabilitation, as identified in a claimant's individual rehabilitation plan, has been completed and that it has focused on the claimant's needs, and addressed any injury-related barriers, to enable the claimant—
(a)to maintain or obtain employment; or
(b)to regain or acquire vocational independence.

The last outcome of these assessments is that you are deemed as not having the capacity to work, either part or full time, in which case you are considered to be a long term claimant. ACC may re-visit these assessments from time to time if they believe that you are improving or  regaining ability.

Illness & Neurological Disease

If you are diagnosed with a chronic illness or neurological condition, there are agencies and specialist service people you can contact who can help you decide what to do next. Some people may want to continue in their current careers, others may want to continue working but in a less demanding or more suitable role. So who can you contact to help you?

An Occupational Therapist is vital in this process. Their aim is to ensure that your environment and 'tools' are effective in helping you to maintain or find employment. Those tools may be physical or they may be strategies that you use to help you compensate for areas of ability you have lost.

An Occupational Therapists job is to marry together those skills and abilities you have, with available resources that may not have. Together with your employer, an OT can view your work space and formulate a plan which will allow you to work at your best: maximising your abilities, while supporting your disabilities.

Occupational Therapists can order equipment which may help you. This can include things such as supportive chairs, ergonomic workstations, magnifiers, voice recorders or adaptive technology for use in an office or in a car. They may also be able to re-arrange the actual space you are in to reduce light or noise, for instance, which can make it easier to maintain concentration and reduce fatigue.

Career advisors are another resource available to you. There are many advisors available throughout the country, however most do not specialise in disability related issues. It is well worth asking your doctor or advocate whether they know of any agency that has been recommended in your area. For the purposes of illustrating what a specialised agency can do, I will use the following agency as an example:


Workbridge is a professional employment service for people with all types of disability, including people who have lived with the long-term effects of injury and illness. A Workbridge client will have been living with the effects of their disability, injury or illness for more than six months.

We work at no cost for jobseekers and employers to match people to the right job.

Workbridge also administers Support Funds on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development. This funding is available to help with any additional costs directly relating to a person's disability when entering or retaining a job, entering training, or commencing self employment.

Workbridge shares the vision of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, that disabled people have the same right to take part in community life as everyone else. We work with disabled people to increase their participation in employment. To achieve this we work co-operatively with other community organisations, employers and government.

Workbridge employment consultants work in partnership with you to:
  • find out what you want to do
  • set work goals and plan how to reach them
  • find relevant work experience
  • prepare a current curriculum vitae (CV)
  • learn job search skills, including how to apply for jobs, and interview skills.
To be eligible to receive jobseeker services, a Workbridge client will be:
  • currently living in New Zealand, and
  • a New Zealand citizen, a permanent resident, or hold an appropriate open work permit, and
  • aged between 16 and 65 years.
Once you are in a job, we will keep in contact with you to make sure that everything is going well.

Workbridge offers the following services for jobseekers:

National Employment Services
The Ministry of Social Development contracts Workbridge to place jobseekers into ongoing open employment. Workbridge will work with each jobseeker to develop job searching skills and confidence, and to locate the most suitable employment to match their needs for full-time, part-time or casual work. People in employment who are having difficulties may be able to access Workbridge services for assistance in the workplace. Workbridge also offers a service to people who are already in employment and wish to find a new job.

In addition to the contract with MSD, Workbridge is contracted in some regions to provide targeted assistance to individuals or groups of individuals. Each of the regional contracts are tailored to the specific needs of the local area and identify job options based on a jobseeker's experience, transferable skills, training and education.

Regional Employment Programmes

Where to From Here
Currently provided in the Coromandel area, this programme is implemented in three parts and is designed to work closely with Work and Income case managers and clients.

Starting with a one day seminar, jobseekers discuss their readiness for job search and the steps that are needed to undertake a successful job search. The programme then moves into an in-depth vocational assessment to identify what is required to meet the jobseeker's vocational potential. During the development of this report, Workbridge employment consultants provide career counselling to identify jobseeker skills, values, interests and achievements. Employment consultants will discuss career pathways and possible job options to be pursued immediately or after the completion of study or training. The final component of this programme is implementing the plan and supporting and monitoring the jobseeker as they work through their goals.

The programme is flexible and can be adjusted to suit individual needs.

Preparation for Work Programme
Currently provided in the Northland and Waikato regions. Workbridge undertakes an assessment of jobseekers referred by Work and Income to identify jobs they could undertake with their current skills and experience. The final career guidance report is sent to the jobseeker's Work and Income case manager who will put the recommendations into action with the jobseeker.

Steps to Work
Currently provided in the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa regions. This three part programme offers even more flexibility to meet individual jobseeker's needs. Jobseekers can be referred to any component of 'Steps to Work' by Work and Income case managers.

Step One. The 'Steps to Work' programme starts with an in-depth interview with each jobseeker. A report is written that identifies options for immediate employment or the steps that need to be taken to move the jobseeker closer to their employment goal. The jobseeker receives career counselling from a Workbridge employment consultant identifying any possible roadblocks to achieving the employment outcomes.

Step Two. A seminar focussing on employment coaching. When completed, the jobseeker will have increased their skills in the successful handling of interviews, job research, writing cover letters to employers, and completing job application forms.

Step Three. A focused job search tailored to the requirements identified during stages one and two. After the jobseeker successfully finds work, Workbridge can provide up to six months of support.

Support Funds
Workbridge also administers Support Funds on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development. This funding is available to help with any qualifying disability-related costs a person may have when they are working or in training.

Budget Advisors

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