Why is it important to address return-to-work?

HR Manager

4: Return to work

Why is it important to address return-to-work?

As the workforce ages, managing the return to work of people with a long-term illness or injury becomes a key part of resourcing and people management. Retaining valuable experienced workers is of considerable benefit to the organisation, even if workplace adjustments need to be made to achieve this.

It is important to put a clear policy in place, which is integrated into other policies on OSH, sickness absence management and . Such policies can include: 

  • The roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved;
  • Procedures around communication with the worker; and
  • Workplace adaptations to facilitate the worker's return.

 Based on this policy, the employer, worker, OSH advisor and HR should all work together to plan and implement a timely, realistic and effective return to work.

In Great Britain for those returning work after more than seven days absence, a fit note can be obtained for individuals if their health affects their ability to work.  This can help identify work tasks that can be completed at work.  For those individuals who are absent for 4 weeks or more, referral can be made to the Fit for Work Service in England and Wales or Scotland. 

Early intervention

Reintegration at the workplace should be considered, if possible, at the earliest possible stage of medical treatment (taking into account medical confidentiality), or in conjunction with or , depending on the situation of the individual worker. The longer the duration of the sickness absence, the more barriers workers experience to return to work and the lower their chance of a successful return to work.

How to ensure a successful return-to-work? (next section)