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Returning To Work After Illness

It can be quite stressful returning to the workplace after being off sick. Regardless what the reason is i.e. knee surgery, mental health illness or an accident – it may be an option to have a staged return. A well-managed return to work can reduce the chance of the employee being off sick again, in a short space of time.

Let’s imagine someone is off with stress, if they return to the workplace because they are under pressure by their line manager to return, this could lead to long-term issues.

We have included some tips for Employers / Line Managers when dealing with a staff member who is off on long-term sickness:

  • It is good practice to keep in regular contact with the staff member, but don’t phone them every week – they will feel pressurised.
  • Ask how the staff member has gotten on at their G.P.
  • Have return to work discussions – this could be outside the office in a mutually convenient location
  • Organise a staged return – offer the staff member part-time working hours, gradually leading back to full-time (or whatever their contract states)
  • Above all, find out why the person has been off their work? Do not assume all stress is caused by factors outside work, is the issue internal?

Some people wear masks at work, they keep the stress contained within and it literally eats away at them, destroying their self-esteem and health. This only has negative consequences for both the employer and staff member.

If someone is off work due to stress and then returns to the same level of workload, nothing will ever be achieved. Sometimes the hierarchy and allocation of work tasks / projects is not balanced, this means the workplace will always be in turmoil. Ask yourself, is the workload realistic, have the correct timescales been allocated to allow for interruptions that always occur in the work environment?

We suggest the line manager reviews the situation each month; a happy workforce is dramatically more productive than people who are miserable in their jobs.

If the staff member is the correct fit for the business, we suggest you do your utmost to accommodate them. People with exceptional skills and attitude are hard to find.

The health and safety executive has excellent fact sheets for employers and employees. Speak to your Human Resources department and get advice and support. Staff members need to feel they can return to work without being made to feel guilty or excluded within their team.

Above all, don’t discriminate against someone who is off ill. Look within the workplace, can you be absolutely sure there is no pressurising? Support your staff members and together you will achieve more.

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