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.