Preparing For An Employees Return To Work

24th October 2018

In 2016/17 alone, 31.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. It goes without saying that this has extremely costly implications for organisations, and not just from a monetary point of view. From lost productivity to hiring temporary workers to cover absences, there are numerous reasons employers want to keep their employees in work wherever possible. However, sometimes, absences cannot be avoided whether this is through maternity leave or a planned operation. Nevertheless, these types of statistics really highlight the importance of having an absence management plan in place in the workplace. The guide below should help you feel better informed and prepared for an employees return to work, should they need to take a prolonged absence.

Why do I need to prepare for an employees return to work?

If you haven’t heard of an absence management plan or preparing for employees return to work before you wouldn’t be alone. However, it’s something that’s important to think about as an employer. Putting consideration into your employees’ health and wellbeing is now commonplace within the workplace, so thinking about how this plays a part in an employee’s return to work post absence is key. If the return to work process is carried out well, it will allow them to perform more productively and efficiently within their day to day role.

By seeking the help of an occupational health provider, you can be confident your employees are back to work as soon as is safely possible. You can also rest assured knowing practical tasks are being carried out safely, and that the employee will have the right support in place to return to their role as soon as possible.

Who can help make workplace adjustments?

Recognising your need to assist your employees in their return to work is the first step, but it can be difficult to know where to go for help with this. Look for occupational health providers who offer sickness management or return to work services. They will look at an employees physical and mental wellbeing, and assess when they are ready to return to the workplace. It’s likely that they will work with you to create an absence management plan, and this will either be a proactive or reactive management plan, depending on your circumstance.

A proactive absence management plan is the most effective of the two and is used to arrange a return to work prior to a planned absence, for example, if they are undergoing a surgical procedure. Your occupational health provider will draw up a sickness and absence plan for their anticipated recovery, and it will likely cover the hours the employee will work and a review of their duties. A reactive plan, on the other hand, is put together after the employee goes off sick. This plan is solely focused on their return to work and determining when they will be fit to do so.

What types of adjustments will I need to make?

The adjustments you’ll need to make are dependant on the reasons your employee has been absent. See some of the common adjustments below:

  • Adjusting working hours or patterns
  • Phased return to work, on a weekly basis
  • Additional equipment, or a change in the equipment they use
  • Physical changes to accommodate an employee at work

What’s classed as reasonable adjustments?

It’s important to note that if your employee develops a disability or health condition as a result of their illness or injury, it is your legal responsibility as an employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate this. By this, we mean to make the correct and suitable adjustments to enable that employee to return to and remain in work. You must make your workplace a place for equal opportunities.

Find out how we can help you ensure your employees are returning to work in a safe environment that keeps them healthy and productive.

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