return to work support- general injury

Employees can be absent from work for a number of reasons. Although each case should be treated individually, there are some steps that must be followed when supporting an employee to return to work after a long-term absence. During each of these stages, Occupational Health can provide you with advice, support, and suggestions on what actions to take. 


Whilst an employee is off work


A good workplace should check in on the injured employee whilst they’re off. However this conversation shouldn’t include anything about work or their job, this could cause extra stress or pressure, which could cause them to rush returning to work. It should be a conversation that focuses on the health of the employee and how their recovery is going.

However, whilst an employee is off sick from work, the return to work, and planning this should be considered. A management referral and the subsequent report can provide advice on how to make the return to work experience good for both the employee and the employer. Including when is the best time for the employee to return to work, what support should be offered, and if any changes need to be made. Whilst ensuring that legal implications are considered after an episode of sickness. 


Physical injuries can have an effect on mental health


Musculoskeletal injuries were noted by 53% as a reason for long-term absences in 2019. With other reasons being stress, mental health, and acute medical conditions.

If someone has been injured in a serious accident, they could also be feeling the effects mentally. When an incident is traumatic, the person could experience flashbacks, feelings of anxiety, and worry. Just because someone has recovered physically, doesn’t mean they aren’t still unwell or need time off work.


When an employee is ready to return to work


It’s a great idea to set up a meeting before an employee returns to work. This shouldn’t however be too formal, this is about discussing the ideas of returning to work, what’s needed, what’s changed, and how the employee can best return to work. This meeting should be a ‘welcome back’ and not make the employee nervous or anxious in any way.

If you are an employee who has been injured and been off work for an extended time, it would be a good idea to check your workplace absence policy, just so you know what’s expected from you but also your employer.


A return to work meeting


This meeting could include supervisors and managers of the employee, but definitely, those who know the role of the employee and what’s involved, so they can make informed decisions.


Points to be covered in a ‘return to work’ meeting:

  • Is the employee ready to return to work? How do they feel about this, do they have any reservations? Are they medically able to return to work?
  • Does the employee have any recommendations from their GP? When someone has been seriously injured, they may have to make lifestyle changes, which can include when at work
  • Are there any changes that can be made to make the return easier? For example, if they’re using crutches, is there appropriate seating available, and are they able to work on the ground floor?
  • If an employee is classed as disabled, do appropriate changes need to be made? (see below for more information)
  • Discuss any updates they’ve missed whilst being off work? Talk about these and discuss any impacts
  • Consider referring the employee to Occupational Health Services. They can provide a Return to work assessment to see whether employees are safe to return to work
  • Agree on a plan for the return to work. This could include a gradual return or changes that need to be made to support employees returning to work. Plus any dates so that both parties are clear


Workstation Assessments 


Only taking 30 minutes, our workstation assessments can reduce exposure to the effects of musculoskeletal issues. Providing advice on posture, ergonomics, and assessing hazards of the work area. The assessment includes vision screening, posture advice, plus recommendations and advice on how to work safely in the workstation. 


Reasonable adjustments for disabled employees


Under the Equality Act 2010, disabled employees are entitled to reasonable adjustments to be made to allow them to return to work. If an employee has a disability, by law, the employer must consider the reasonable adjustments needed,


Why providing a good Return to work experience is important


Most employers would rather retain good employees who’ve received previous training and know the job, therefore it’s important to create a good return to work experience. There should be open and honest dialogue, meaning both parties are up to date with how things are going and each one feels.


How to be a good employer when a staff member is returning to work:

  • Follow your return to work procedure
  • Maintain open communication throughout
  • Allow flexibility in the return e.g. part-time work
  • Allow flexible hours for employees to attend medical appointments or physiotherapy
  • Understand that there is no set time limit to recover from an accident/ injury
  • Understand that medication and rehabilitation can have an effect on stamina and previous work abilities, be patient with employees


Contact us


If you’d like advice on returning to work or to inquire about the range of Occupational Health Services we provide, please get in touch. Email us at or call us on 01260 277797.

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.