Case 15: Back pain resulting in long-term absence (30 weeks)


  Major multi-site biscuit and snack manufacturer with an Occupational Health Department (OHD). This site, based in the northeast, has 800 employees.


An employee had been absent on numerous occasions (totalling 26 weeks) with a ‘bad back’.  Previous rehabilitation plans had not worked.  A further extended absence of 4 weeks followed.


  A report was obtained from her specialist surgeon following which the company’s physiotherapist saw the employee to assess her current condition and offer treatment. The treatment consisted of advice, physiotherapy and acupuncture.

The employee subsequently indicated she felt fit to return to work on restricted duties. A return-to-work risk assessment was carried out involving the physiotherapist, the employee and her manager. This involved visiting the work area and going through each task the employee was required to perform, using a job safety analysis approach.

A detailed report was submitted by the physiotherapist to the employee’s manager to make him aware of the restrictions required should the individual return to work.  Unfortunately, in this case, the restrictions were so great that she was not judged suitable to perform her role and no other suitable jobs were available.

Lessons learned

  This was clearly a complicated case and it would have been better to involve specialist knowledge at an earlier stage.

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    Updated 2023-06-15