Return to Work Post Sickness

A ‘phased return to work’ is an adjustment an employer can offer to help employees return to work after illness. Create a safe & trusting workplace.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: August 5, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
back to work post sickness in the UK and its statutory laws explained by Papershift

Regardless of an employee’s role within a business or the reason for their absence, returning to work after sickness or injury can be a difficult thing to manage. There could be a number of reasons why the individual may feel reluctant to step back into the workplace as well as a variety of reasons why the employer is apprehensive about having them back. These factors can make reintroducing staff to the working environment far more difficult than opening the door and letting them in.

In this article, we will look at how employees and businesses can handle the return to work post-sickness process so it goes smoothly for all those involved. 

Let’s begin.

How can employees make the return to work post-sickness process easier to handle? 

There are many things that an employee can do to make the return to work after illness process easier for them. These include:

Keep in regular contact with colleagues

One of the best ways to ensure that going back to work is not too overwhelming, is for employees to stay in contact with their colleagues while off sick. A simple call once a fortnight will mean that staff are not completely out of the loop when they return. This call can be for professional or social purposes and the contact will help those off sick to keep on top of what is going on in the workplace. 

If an employee doesn’t feel well enough to call, they could email or even text a private message instead.

Keep the employer up to date

Keeping the employer up to date with an illness is often a requirement of a company’s sickness policy but it can also be helpful for employees to stay in the loop of what’s going on with the business.  

Those off sick can provide their employers with as few or as many details of the current situation as they want so long as you keep their boss well informed on how their recovery is going and when they are planning on returning to work.

Not only will this meet any requirements within company policies, but it will also give managers time to prepare for any special requirements the employee may have when they return. 

Adjust your routine when approaching the return date

Shortly before returning to work, it is a good idea for employees to go to sleep and wake up at the same time as they would whilst working. It may also be useful to eat lunch or take a walk at times when they would usually do this on a working day. This will help employees to get their body clock prepared for a return to work and ensure that fatigue, tiredness or even disorientation don’t rear their heads when going back to work. 

Be prepared for meetings

Before any return to the office after a lengthy absence, it’s important to be aware of any return to work meetings or paperwork that need to be filled in. Knowing company procedures will give employees time to prepare and prevent them from feeling overwhelmed or surprised when the day comes around. It will also mean that staff are aware of any documents they may need to bring when they do return to work.

Be prepared for a Work Capability Assessment

Many businesses these days offer a Work Capability Assessment when an employee returns to work after a lengthy period of sickness. If a workplace doesn’t offer one, then an employee can request one to be undertaken before or when they return (although employers can refuse the request).

A Work Capability Assessment will allow returning staff to feel reassured that they are ready and supported enough to return as well as giving employers confidence that the returnee is fit enough to come back. 

A Work Capability Assessment can also seek to provide a rehabilitation programme to assist staff on their return to work and ensure that they have all the support they may need.

Return at your own pace

If an employee feels especially overwhelmed or anxious about returning to the workplace, they could always consider requesting a phased return to work which could help them to ease back into the process. For example, they could return part-time initially before slowly get back into the work routine without overworking themselves.

As an employer, what can I do to help my employee’s returning to work after illness?

When someone is ready to return to work after an absence, the employer should have a procedure they follow. This should be written in a return to work policy and applied fairly across all staff and departments.

Here are a few things to include in the policy?

Have a return to work meeting

If there’s been a long absence or the employee has an ongoing health condition, it’s a good idea for the employer and employee to meet before the return and:

  1. Make sure the employee is ready to return to work. They may feel eager to return but physically incapable to do so.
  2. Talk about any work updates that happened while they were off sick.
  3. Look at any recommendations from the employee’s doctor (if there is one).
  4. Discuss if the employee needs any support.
  5. If the employee has a disability, assess if changes are needed in the workplace to remove or reduce any disadvantages. These are called reasonable adjustments.
  6. Consider a referral to a medical service such as occupational health.
  7. Discuss any employee assistance programme (if available).
  8. Agree on a plan that suits you both, for example a phased return to work.

Make reasonable adjustments

If an employee has a disability, by law their employer must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ if needed to help them return to work.

Reasonable adjustments could include making changes to the employee’s:

  • Workstation or working equipment
  • Working hours
  • Duties or tasks

These reasonable adjustments can help:

  • Get employees back to work quicker
  • Prevent any further problems occurring down the line

To come up with the best reasonable adjustments for the individual employee, the employer should take advice from:

  • The employee themself
  • The employee’s doctor
  • The businesses occupational health adviser

Consider a phased return to work

A ‘phased return to work’ is an adjustment an employer can offer to help employees return to work after illness. It allows staff to feel supported while ‘dipping their toe’ back into the workplace at a reduced pace. 

A phased return to work isn’t always a reduction in hours and could mean any of the following: 

  • Reduced hours
  • Lighter duties
  • Different duties

In conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed our guide to returning to work post-sickness. For more informative workplace information, check out the rest of our website.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)