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Returning to work after sickness absence

If staff take time off work because of work related stress, getting them back to work as quickly as possible is important. A well managed early return to work will reduce the risk of the absence becoming long-term (long-term is defined is an absence period of longer than one month). In general, people find it more difficult to return to work after a long-term absence.

Good practice

Encouraging a speedy return to work is linked with a number of activities that are recognised as good practice in terms of early return to work. These actions include:

Reasonable adjustments

As stress at work is often linked to specific problems, (e.g. having too much to do in too short a time), it may be worth thinking about practical steps or adjustments that may help the employee when they return.

If workload is an issue, some temporary adjustments may need to be made to reduce the amount of work they will have to deal with. This may help to reduce the pressure of work over the short-term.

If the person has found it difficult to cope with particular tasks involved in their job, temporary adaptations and/or changes to the job may provide valuable breathing space by reducing immediate work pressures on return.

Is the person clear about what their job involves and what is expected of them? If not, a review may clarify the aims of the job and the tasks they are expected to complete.

People returning to work after being off with stress often prefer a period of stability. If changes are unavoidable, the employee needs to be fully involved and consulted.

For line managers

We have information and a checklist to help line managers deal with people experiencing stress-related ill health and help them return to work.

Updated 2012-12-04