Could small companies get staff back to work more quickly after sickness absence?

A recent study has looked at levels of return to work in cancer patients. The prospective study investigated the associations of demographics and occupational factors (occupation, size of employer, and duration of employment) on the return to work within two years of diagnosis of different types of cancer. The study didn’t find any significant associations between returning to work and the patient demographics, but it did identify that employees working in large companies returned to work earlier than those working in small companies.

This brought to mind a call I’d taken recently taken from a customer who wanted reassurance that an employee with cancer could return to work. The first thing to consider is, of course, whether their treating specialist or GP feels that they are well enough to be at work. They may prefer them to work reduced hours, or have some restrictions in the duties of their role for a period of time, but as an employer your mind needs to be open to the fact that staff don’t need to be 100% to be at work.

Obviously, if someone is operating heavy machinery, driving for long periods or working in a highly demanding environment, you will need to consider these occupational factors when making a decision. But being at work can, in itself, be beneficial to a person’s health, and it’s obviously of benefit to employers too so long as the return to work is handled sensitively and carefully.

If you need advice about managing an employee’s return to work, or about any other Occupational Health issues, call the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44 for completely confidential, free guidance.

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