If you have employees who are on long term sick leave due to illness or injury it is important that you remain in contact with them, to focus on their health and safety and manage their return to work. Before they can come back to the workplace it is also a good idea to arrange a return to work medical to ensure that they are fit and healthy enough to resume their duties and also to determine whether you need to make any reasonable adjustments to accommodate them as they continue to recover.
What is a return to work medical assessment?
A return to work medical may be required for someone who has been absent from work for a long time due to illness or injury. Medical advice can help to determine the best way forward to ensure the employee can return to work and that there will not be further risk of injury or worsening of their illness as a result of the duties they need to do.
Who can conduct a return to work medical?
Occupational health providers are best placed to conduct a return to work medical assessment as they will have the expertise and experience required to assess whether the individual is physically and mentally fit to return to the workplace and in what capacity. An occupational health provider can provide advice on any workplace adjustments that need to be made in order to allow the worker to return safely.
What is a phased return to work?
One of the approaches they may recommend is a phased return to work, where the individual gradually resumes their normal duties by working reduced hours or by carrying out reduced tasks. This can be beneficial to both the individual and your business for the following reasons:
- It minimises the risk of the employee not being able to return at all
- It can save you money as you don’t have to train and recruit a replacement
- It prevents the employee from doing too much too soon on their return and thus needing to have more time off
- It boosts morale in the workplace as other employees realise the lengths you will go to to support your staff
The important thing to remember about a phased return to work is that the initial return to work medical and plan to allow the employee to gradually return are not the end of the story. In order to make their return a successful one and ensure minimum disruption to your business you will need to have regular review meetings and record whether the adjustments you have made are effective.
If the employee is making good progress then you may agree to extend the period of time for which they come to work each day or week. If, however, it seems as though the employee is suffering and their health and wellbeing is worsening then you may need to seek additional support from an occupational health provider to determine the best course of action.
Tips for returning to work after medical leave
In order to help reassure your employees and make their return to work as easy as possible you might like to provide them with a checklist containing the information below:
- Write down any concerns you have about returning to work so when asked at a meeting with HR or occupational health you have the information to hand.
- Stick to your core hours, at least to begin with, so that you don’t overdo it.
- Speak to your colleagues, manager or HR department if you feel overwhelmed with the workload as they can help you to prioritise.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet to give your body all the nutrients it needs to aid in your recovery and give you the energy you need to do your job.
- Get a good night’s sleep – when you start the return to work you might find you need more sleep so go to bed a little earlier to enable your body to get the rest it needs.
If you have an employee who will shortly be returning to work and you want to ensure they are healthy enough to do so safely, you can organise a return to work medical with an occupational health provider such as Heathrow Medical. More information can be found on their website heathrowmedical.com.