Phased return to work after sickness absence

Photo by Brent 2.0 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by Brent 2.0 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

After a person has been absent from work due to illness, especially when the person has been absent over a prolonged period of time, a phased return to work may be the best way of helping the person to re-adjust to full attendance/performance at the workplace.

The phased return to work, which is included as an option on the fit note, offers employees the opportunity to return to work at an earlier stage of recovery from illness (they may not yet be fully fit) by allowing them to do fewer hours and/or modified duties based on a structured return to work plan. The main benefit of the phased return to work for employees is that it allows them to return to work much sooner and settle back into a normal routine, and this has been shown to improve overall wellbeing.

How a return to work programme is developed will depend to a large extent on the reason for the person’s absence, as recuperation rates vary greatly. A recent report produced in Canada (Depression in the Workplace: Insights From Employees and Supervisors) has found that two-thirds of employees who return to work have difficulties concentrating, remembering things, making decisions and performing tasks—even after being medically cleared to return to their jobs. It would be easy for managers to misconstrue these issues as issues of poor performance, so it’s important for employers to find out about a person’s condition and their expected rehabilitation rates.

Not all organisation have their own occupational health departments from whom to seek advice on employee health matters, however. This is why the free Health for Work Adviceline offers advice to employers, employees or GPs on the effect that work might have on a person’s health and, conversely, the effect that a person’s health issues might be having on their ability to work. Call Freephone 0800 0 77 88 44 to speak to an occupational health professional.

This entry was posted in Employee Sickness, Mental Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Phased return to work after sickness absence

  1. eoin macneill says:

    I am currently on phased return to work following period of work related sick leave. I have been advised that I have 2 days sick leave for next 4 week period. However a period of pre booked annual leave falls in the middle of this period. What is my entitlement in this case? Am I owed 2 days leave or does the 4 weeks phased return not apply during annual leave?

  2. Jacqueline Knell says:

    I have been off work for 3 months due to stress from work. An independent Occupational Therapity employed by my Company and my own GP advised a phased return. I work for an Insurance Company and work alone @ home. Following a 200 mile round trip yesterday I have been advised it is their belief I should work everyday? Is this correct? I’m expected to travel again on Thurs and Fri staying overnight. I’m catching up on emails and general and procedure changes and next week I’m out with collegues for 2 days and another day in the office, this will result in 350 miles over 3 days and I have to go to hospital on Thurs/Fri. May I have your / comments what a phased return actually is as this seems very daunting to me and is actually more demanding than actually working.

  3. Mr Lee Gaylor says:

    I have suffered from anxiety&depression for several yrs.I now have another condition that is arthritis in my lower back now due to the disease in my family.I now face the daunting task of trying to find employment after been out of work for so long.I would like to start a home learning course that is a level 1lt course and then progress from there.I would therefore appreciate any feedback or assistance to get me the assistance that I need to pursue this new direction of employment that I and wanting to do.

  4. Donn West says:

    Hi there, I have had a few difficulties at my work . I suffer from Anxiety and Stress related problems, some due to Work, Shortage of Staff Continuesly this seems to be an underlying issue!, which involves me doing extra work duties!.

    Secondly to this I have a Medical Condition of High Blood Pressure, which i am on medication for.

    I was Sick and Off work for Approximately 7,8 Days and since then have had a Phased Return to Work Pattern for around 3 Weeks. I am seeing my GP this morning and feel it necessary that i continue with this Phased Working a bit longer.

    How long can i take a Phased Working Pattern for ?, because my Manager is saying to me that he can only accommdate me on this Phased Working Pattern for just another 2 Weeks!, and then he needs an answer.

    I am a Very Loyal Colleague in working for this Company and have been for nearly 11 Years, i would appreciate it if you could help me and give me an answer to my Question.

    Thank you

    Mr Donn West

  5. anne says:

    My GP has recommended a two/three day week for a few months but my benefit entitlement would mean that this is financially impossible. Is it possible to have a phased return to work for this amount of time; say two day week for three months. Would I be entitled to full salary for this time?

  6. renieshaw says:

    Hi Anne. You will need to discuss with your employer about salary arrangements for a phased return to work as it is up to employers to decide whether or not full pay is given. Hope that helps.

  7. alfred savoury says:

    I have been off work for 10 weeks with a heart attack, I had an operation to put a stint and balloon in my heart. my boss says when I go back to work in a weeks time I have to do 8 hrs a day, that is full time, can I refuse

    • Angie Jobson says:

      Your boss should make a work place adjustment.
      A workplace adjustment is ‘a change or adjustment unique to a person’s needs that will enable them to do their job’
      The adjustments that an employer can make are dependent on the employee or candidate disclosing about their health condition in the first place or at least be willing to discuss their needs. Employers have a duty to ensure that workplace adjustments are applied at every stage of employment including recruitment, induction, training and development and return to work.
      Go to There you will find a useful questionnaire. Complete it a6nd take it to them. If you have no luck with this, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for further advice. Good luck!

  8. renieshaw says:

    Hi Alfred,

    It is difficult to give a specific response as whether or not this is appropriate may be linked with the job role you are doing.

    We would advise that you try to discuss your concerns with your employer about doing this length of day and see if this can be negotiated by starting with reduced hours with a staged plan to increase to your 8 hours. You may need to take some annual leave / unpaid leave to support this pattern.

    If this does not appear to be successful, discuss with your GP (if you do not have an OH provider) to see if the GP can advise whether this would be detrimental to your recovery.

  9. diane says:

    I have been off work for three months as I have been diagnosed with bipolar. I have been to occupational health and they recommended that I have a phased return to work. It was my first day back today and by boss has put me on half days for one week then back to full time hours after that. Occupational health advised for me to build up over four
    Weeks. I am not sure how this works

  10. JULIE BRODIE says:

    I have been off work for 6 months with joint pain and also surgery to my foot which was booked before my joint pain absence. I attended a welfare meeting witb hr and my manager which to say was not positive at all. At the time i was still waiting to see specialist physio and ultra sound. A second welfare with hr and another manager i was offered a phased return over a four week period. My gp gave me another sick note. Today he has given my a return to work date of 22nd. I updated my manager and have a meeting on monday to discuss this. She also wants to know why my gp feels i would benefit from a phased return and what i will benefit from a phased return. She also wants me to put together a plan of support i need. Surely this is her job to put this togethet.

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