Top 10 Tips For Managing An Employee’s Return To Work

Close-up of a mans legs as he walks into an officeManaging an employee returning to work after sick leave can be a daunting task – with so many variables and things to consider, it can be difficult to know the best course of action. To help make the process smoother, we’ve put together our top ten tips for managing a return to work.

From when your employee is still absent, to their first few days back and beyond, this guide should make sick leave management a breeze!

1. Make Sure You Have A Clear Absence Policy

All places of work should have an absence policy that outlines the procedure that mist be followed when an employee returns to work, which should cover both short-term and long-term absences. If deemed appropriate, this may also include holding a meeting with your employees after they return to work.

2. Consider A Referral To Occupational Health

Occupational health workers can work with your employee to help them create a back-to-work plan – this can cover their health condition and detail any support they may need from you upon their return.

3. Make Sure Your Employee Is Caught Up On Workplace News

Keeping your employee in the loop is important for ensuring a smooth return to the workplace – not only will this help your employee to know what to expect when they are back at work, this will also help to make sure they still feel included in the workplace culture even in their absence.

If they’re happy to be contacted about work while they are away, you could ask them if they would like to be signed up to your staff newsletter (if this is something already in place), or receive regular updates from yourself or another member of staff. Alternatively, a meeting upon their return to work to discuss workplace updates would also suffice.

4. Keep In Contact

Infographic about staying in contact with employees as described in the textSimilarly, it is also a good idea to keep in contact with your employee while they are away, particularly if it is a long-term absence. You should decide with them how often your contact should be, which medium (email, phone or face-to-face) is best, and who they will be in contact with (line manager, HR manager, etc).

This is a good opportunity to discuss work updates, check on how they are doing, and find out if they need any additional support.

5. Make Reasonable Adjustments If Needed

By law, reasonable adjustments must be made if an employee has a disability, if needed to return to work. This might include adjusting their working hours, changing their duties and tasks, or providing them with different working equipment or a workstation set up.

Even without a disability, reasonable adjustments should be considered for all employees returning to work – this can be beneficial as it can help to prevent further health problems and give them the tools to get back to work quicker.

6. Look At Their Doctor’s Recommendations

Doctor filling in a form on a clipboardYour employee’s doctor can provide a ‘fit note’, a statement where they give their opinion on their fitness to work. This may include advice regarding any tasks that their patient may not be fit to do yet, or the level of work they are currently capable of.

This may also include suggestions for ways you as an employer can help their patient come back to work. This can help inform you of any adjustments or change in duties that might be beneficial.

7. Consider A Phased Return To Work

In some situations, a phased return to work (such as reduced hours, lighter duties, or different duties) might help an employee’s transition back to the workplace. A plan for this, including when to review these changes, should be agreed upon with the employee.

8. Provide Resources

If your workplace has an employee assistance programme or similar, this can be offered to the employee – otherwise, pointing them in the right direction for resources they can access themselves, such as mental health support, can help to ensure they are receiving a range of support.

9. Be Mindful Of The Reason For Absence

Some reasons for absences, such as mental health problems or a bereavement, require a careful approach. It’s important to take the matter seriously and have an appropriate response – for example, if someone has been signed off due to stress, regular work updates might be detrimental.

Two women having a meeting10. Continue To Provide Ongoing Support After Their Return

It is important to check in with your employee on a regular basis, to ensure their health is not impacting on their work and to give you the opportunity to prevent work that could negatively affect them.

Additionally, some health conditions may fluctuate, meaning that the employee’s health may change over time.

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