Phased return to work after sickness absence

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

phased return to workAfter a person has been absent from work due to illness, especially when the person has been absent over a prolonged period of time, a phased return to work may be the best way of helping the person to re-adjust to full attendance/performance at the workplace.

The phased return to work, which is included as an option on the fit note, offers employees the opportunity to return to work at an earlier stage of recovery from illness (they may not yet be fully fit) by allowing them to do fewer hours and/or modified duties based on a structured return to work plan. The main benefit of the phased return to work for employees is that it allows them to return to work much sooner and settle back into a normal routine, and this has been shown to improve overall wellbeing.

How a return to work programme is developed will depend to a large extent on the reason for the person’s absence, as recuperation rates vary greatly. Those who return to work too soon after illness may not be able to work to their full capacity even though they may appear sufficiently medically fit to return to their jobs. It would be easy for managers to misconstrue issues such as difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions as poor performance, so it’s important for employers to find out about a person’s condition and their expected rehabilitation rates.

Not all organisations have their own occupational health departments for advice on employee health matters, however. In addition, getting advice on the effect that work might have on a person’s health and, conversely, the effect that a person’s health issues might be having on their ability to work, is particularly important when employees are returning to work after sickness absence. This is why Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial work-related health advice to GPs, employers and employees to help those who are struggling in work with a health condition, or have been off work for four weeks or more due to sickness.

131 Comments

  1. Anna

    Hi,

    My mom has returned to work after 4 months absence – after her operation. Her colleague had advised that she is entitle to work for 50% of her normal time instead her full hours for some time at the beginning of her return to work. Could someone please advise how true it is ?

    I would appreciate any advice.

    Kind regards,
    Anna

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Anna,
      What you are describing is a phased return to work, whereby an individual can return to work on reduced hours which would increase gradually over what is usually a short period. This is not an entitlement, but is something that some employers may consider in order to help an employee back to work following a long absence. Perhaps your mum should discuss this with her manager, who could advise on the position of her particular company.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  2. John

    I’m a teacher. I’ve been on a phased return now since early March this year after a period of illness of more than 12 months. Our “sick year” runs from the start of April to the end of March. My employer is telling me that as I have not yet started teaching full time yet I am considered to have not resumed my duties and consequently am effectively still sick. As a result, should I go sick again this year I will not be paid sick pay because I exhausted my entitlement over the last year. Is this possible?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi John,

      If you are referring to sick pay in accordance with your employers organisational sick pay scheme then you would need to make enquiries about their specific rules – payroll departments are generally very knowledgeable and should be able to provide accurate advice. Employers/organisations are responsible for their own policies on organisational sick pay, and will have differing rules. There is no legislation which determines what can or cannot be paid by an employer in relation to company sick pay.

      With regard to Statutory Sick Pay, if a period of absence starts within eight weeks of the end of a previous period of absence, the periods are linked and count as one period of sickness. SSP is only payable for 28 weeks in any one period of absence (including linked periods). If you are off sick more than once with more than eight weeks in between, the periods you were off sick are not added together and the 28 weeks starts being counted again each time. Citizens Advice provide some useful information on their website https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/time-off-work/off-work-because-of-sickness/#h-statutory-sick-pay

      The Fit for Work Team.

  3. shannon

    hi I have just had 10 weeks off due to an injuered hip that will need a major operation early next year I have this week been cleared by my doctor to return to full work as being a full time employee who only took 2 weeks non paid leave in that ten weeks does my employer have to return me to full time hours or do they have the right to only roster me on 3 x 6 hour shifts.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Shannon,

      This will be entirely dependent upon the terms and conditions of your employment. If you are a full time employee with a permanent contract, then usually your employer would allow you to return to your full time contract. However, if you are contracted on differing hours or, for example, zero hours contract, then your employer is able to adjust your hours to suit business needs.

      I would advise that you contact your employer to discuss this further and establish the reasons for the change in hours, it may be that they are simply trying to ease you back into the workplace gently.

      The Fit for Work Team.

  4. Layla Hammond

    Im returning to work after 4 months off work my return date is 1/06/2015 my doctor has said i need a phase return to work and said i need to discuss the hours with my employer but my manger is saying that if the doctor doesn’t specify the hours i need to do they won’t accepted my phase return and they need my doctor to write down the hours. I told my doctor this and he said it is usually something that i discuss with my HR dept not with my doctor. Who is right in this situation? I would be grateful of any help thank you.

    Layla Hammond.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Layla,

      There is no legislation which would cover this. While a GP can indicate on the Fit Note the hours to be worked, this would be unusual. A GP would usually only indicate the period the adjustment is required. This is because the GP would not have a working knowledge of every organisation and its needs. Therefore, it is a matter best discussed with your employer, if possible. That way, you and your employer can identify the specific needs of the organisation, and work out hours that suit both you and the organisation you work for. The Fit for Work website offers a selection of resources, which might help you and your employer reach a mutually beneficial agreement (e.g. this guidance sheet on the phased return to work: http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/615/kw/phased%20/type/Employee). If the Fit for Work referral service has begun in your area (see the roll out map), you could ask your GP for a free referral in order to discuss your return to work.
      The Fit for Work Team

  5. Maria

    Hi,
    I had a gynaecology operation in March and I’m due to return to work in 2 days time. Despite chasing occupational health for a return to work appointment, they have not yet organised the appt. Should I return to work without having occupational health appt?

    Maria S

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Maria,
      Thank you for your enquiry. If you feel able to return to your normal work, then it would be quite acceptable to return to work without undergoing an occupational health assessment. One alternative might be for you to speak with your manager about any adjustments you feel you might require in order to ease you back into the workplace. If for some reason you feel that you need the input of occupational health I would advise you contact your manager and explain your situation, it may be that they can speed up the referral on your behalf or amend some of your duties pending the assessment. If the Fit for Work referral service has begun in your area (see the roll out map), you could ask your GP for a free referral in order to discuss your return to work.
      The Fit for Work Team

  6. Shimon Forman

    my wife returned to work after a heart attack. Her line manager had made adjustments to the work plan to compensate for her absence. He has not reverted to the previous plan now that she has returned, leaving her with very little to do. She raised the matter with him but he prefers the new arrangement. Does she have any redress?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Shimon,
      Thank you for your query – it is generally for an employer to make decisions about the distribution of work, it may be that in re-allocating some of your wife’s work her manager is trying to protect her and avoid overloading her during the initial phases of her return to work. I would advise that she approaches her manager again and explain that she is finding the lack of work quite stressful, and feels that she is ready to take on more responsibility. Even if her manager prefers the current work plan it maybe that they can discuss other activities which she can become involved in. A good way of identifying limitations and needs is to look at the six principles within a stress risk assessment as these can help both employee and manager to agree suitable duties The following link lists these principles and might provide some guidance: http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/387/kw/stress/type/Employer. Additionally ACAS may also be able to offer additional advice on employment rights.
      The Fit for Work Team

  7. Linda Walker

    I have just had a ocpational assessment and they said I need a phase to work but I have just got a sick note for three week what shall I do

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Linda,
      You can return to work on a phased return despite your fit note recommendation and do not need to wait for the 3 week period to elapse. You should agree a phased return with your manager along with any other recommendations from occupational health. You do not require a further note from your doctor with an amended date or fitness statement.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  8. Henry Bennett

    My brother returned to work after having a heart attack; this was a role which was 50:50 manual and admin. His HR discovered that he had the HA several months later and sent him home for three months and are now saying that he has to return to work in a role which is predominantly manual or they will let him go. There are roles which are more admin based and it had been inferred that he would be offered one with the training required; this option has now disappeared as they are not hiring for those type of roles.
    What can he do? Have his employers followed the law? Have they followed the general approach that should be taken?
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Henry,
      You indicate that your brother’s employer does not currently have a vacancy in an administrative role, and they are under no legal obligations to create one, so in this respect they have not broken any law. A return to a role with some element of physically demanding work is possible after a heart attack and in many cases, an increase in physical activity is helpful rather than harmful. It may be appropriate in some instances to offer adjusted duties but it is for the employer to decide if adjustments are reasonable, taking into account any considerations of the Equality Act 2010, should it apply. With regard to what your brother can do, could he consider asking his employer to refer him for an Occupational Health assessment in order to determine his fitness to undertake the role as it currently stands? If the Fit for Work referral service has begun in his area (see the roll out map), he could ask his GP for a free referral in order to discuss his return to work. This would also determine if he could meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, which may require some adjustments to his role, and although this would guide his employer it still remains their responsibility to determine if adjustments are reasonable.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  9. Sarah

    Hello my husband was off work for nearly two years after an accident at work he has gone back on reduced hours work has been a pain in the back side trying to get him on a personal improvement plan , he is still on reduced hours but has got to have a different op on his foot and will be off for a period of 6-12 weeks but is now classed as disabled for his foot should he get full sick pay or only sick pay for the 3 days that he’s been working for the last nearly 8 months

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Sarah,
      With regard to your husband’s sick pay, SSP (Statutory Sick Pay) is payable for 28 weeks, and if he has been paid SSP for the days he did not work during the phased return period, it is possible that he has exhausted his entitlement. If his company operate a company sick pay scheme it is likely they will have a policy which covers what they will pay and when. I would advise that he contacts the payroll department to ask if he is still entitled to SSP – his manager should be able to advise on the company sick pay policy. If your husband is still entitled to statutory sick pay, then this should be paid at his contracted hours, however, company sick pay will be at the discretion of the company, and dependent on their policy. If all sick pay has been exhausted he should receive a form from his employer which he can use to apply for alternative benefits as appropriate.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  10. Lee

    I’ve had carpal tunnel surgery and my doctor has given me 6 weeks off sick note. The occuptional therapist at work recommends I go back on phased returned to work and is giving recommendations of jobs I could perform not using my affected hand. I have 3 more weeks to go before my sick note is finished. I do not want to go back to work before then. Can my employer force me to go on this phased return to work? Can I tell them that without the risk of losing my job?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Lee,
      For your own enquiry – if your company have sought the opinion of their Occupational Health provider, and they have assessed you as fit for work with adjustments, then your company can choose to accept the opinion of the Occupational Health provider and expect a return to work. If you do not feel able to return because your recovery has not gone as expected, we would suggest you discuss this with your manager, and request a further appointment with Occupational Health.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  11. Steve

    Hi, my wife and I were involved in a serious car accident last year. As a result my wife, who works in Care, has been off work since August 2014 with a prolapsed disc. In April 2015 she received a phased back to work from her doctor, providing her employer made necessary adaptations for her to come back to work. Since then her employer have not facilitated any adaptations, and although my wife received full pay for her first month of ‘phase back to work’, she has not received any further payments, and doesn’t have any income whatsoever. Would she be eligible for any benefits from the state, and is there a limit of how long a ‘phase back to work’ should take?

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Steve,
      Thank you for your enquiry. Unfortunately because state benefits are dependent upon personal circumstances, we are not able offer specific advice in this regard, but would advise that your wife contact either her local job centre or Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to advise more accurately. With regard to the Phased Return to Work these tend to be arranged around a relatively short period of time, for example 4 – 6 weeks, which gives the individual time to rehabilitate themselves back into the workplace. However, it is possible that some longer term adjustments to the persons duties at work could be required. Any adjustments would need to be agreed with the employer, and there is no obligation on the employer to agree to them if they do not consider them to be reasonable and manageable. Our Web Site http://www.fitforwork.org does offer guidance on workplace adjustment, phased return to work and adjustments for employees with back pain which you may find helpful. I hope you have found this information to be useful, please do not hesitate to contact us further if we can be of further assistance.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  12. Mrs R

    I’m 32+3 weeks pregnant and suffering with back pain at work. My doctor has given a fit for work note recommending reduced hours. My employer would normally pay full pay for sick pay but has said that if I reduce my hours for the three weeks indicated, they will reduce my salary. Is this allowed?

    • Fit for Work team

      Although there are set criteria for payment of statutory sick pay (SSP), companies can outline their own criteria for payment of company sick pay. If you work for a larger company that has a Human Resources department, they should be able to advise you further. Employers would not usually be obliged to pay for hours not worked, and the decision whether or not to provide a period of amended duties including restricted hours on full pay, would be entirely at their discretion.

  13. H Meyers

    Hi there.

    Are employers allowed to schedule you without telling you and without your doctors Fit to Work form that they requested?

    • Fit for Work team

      No – this would only be provided after your surgery as planned surgery can be cancelled or postponed from time to time and the absence may not be required.

  14. jayne

    I am currently signed off work -now into my 6th week off due to the sudden death of my mother and two weeks later my father.i am off with acute stress.i feel as though i can go back to work but perhaps on reduced hours for a few weeks rather than full time.do i discuss this with my GP or my manager

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Jayne,
      I’m very sorry to hear you have experienced these bereavements so close together but pleased to hear that you feel ready to make a return to work. You do not need to see your GP before you return and can discuss this with your line manager if they can accommodate a phased return for you. If you were to see your GP, you may be given a ‘fit with restricted duties’ that may advise that you would be fit for reduced hours for an agreed period – this does often make return easier. Policies and what each business can accommodate can differ, so it would be worth first checking with your line manager and discussing your return.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  15. Mr P

    Hi I’ve just returned to work on a phased return requested by my GP after a heart op and four months off with pay. This will mean working two days the first week, three days second week and so on up to a month before returning to full time. all this info was sent to HR with the relevant paper work. I have been told by HR for me to be paid for the full week whilst on this phased approach I will have to use my holiday time to cover the days that I’m off, is this correct?

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Mr P,
      All companies vary in how they manage a phased return, but there may also be the option of you being paid your salary for the days that you work, and statutory sick pay (SSP) for any full days you do not work during your phased return.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  16. Pamela Richards

    Hello.
    I am a teacher who is currently of work as a result of a severe flare up of rheumatoid arthritis brought on by a withdrawal of medication due to a bout of pneumonia. I am aiming to return to work in the autumn term but am concerned about future flare ups. I received 28 weeks of SSP which finished in May. If I have to take more time off sick when I return, will I be entitled to claim further SSP?

  17. Jan Howe

    I have been off work 4 months due to hip replacement, G.P put phased return on my fit note, company say it’s their policy to only pay what I work. I was previously advised that pay is topped up with ssp how does this work ? I am now on greatly reduced wages,I wouldn’t have done a phased return Please could you advise me. Thank you

  18. Emma Joseph

    I had 2 weeks off for having horrific pain caused by gall stones. I need to have my gallbladder removed.
    I have returned to work asking for less hours as I am still in pain. My employer agreed these terms and wrote them on my back to work form.
    Now she has just gone from the back to work form and given me a lot more hours.
    I don’t know what to do as I am not sure if sheis breaking terms of return to work or if she can just do it. Or whether i can go to doctors and get a note stating I can only do so many hours.
    Just confused and feel like leaving my job.

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Emma,
      Thank you for your enquiry, adjustments to working hours or work are at the discretion of the employer. If your employer agreed to adjust your work or hours for a period to assist you, I would suggest you discuss this with your manager, and explain that you are still in pain and struggling with your normal work. It may be that he/she has simply not realised that you continue to require assistance. You can go to your GP and request a fit note stating adjustments, but again your employer is under no legal obligation to provide this. It would be for the business to decide if this is a reasonable and manageable adjustment.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  19. lolita boiko

    after carpal tunnel release and left shoulder tendonitis i ask occupation doctor change 1 task because cant gripping and wrapping big flowers bouqets,and want 8h shift,but doctor no support and i work in busy 12 h and do all tasks,but when start pain my hand more i ask GP doctor 1week with light duties ,but company no support my recquest and no give me job from 12.03.2015 i work for company 8year,occupation doctor in my face tell she work for company ,but no for workers,very please help me return to work i want independant occupation health assesment,GP doctor tell all my problem need sort with companys health occupation doctor,but i no agree because cant believe this doctor,i have stress all period ,cry every day because i feel discrimination,last week i no get sick pay,when finish my sick pay from 12.03.2015,please help

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Lolita,
      Thank you for your enquiry. Having a company occupational health assessment is much more valuable than sourcing outside occupational health as they are aware of the duties involved in your job role. This does not mean that you are unable to seek an independent occupational health assessment, but you would have to pay for this. Ultimately your employer does not have to undertake these recommendations if they are not seen as reasonable, necessary, or within the business scope of the company. Here is some further information about occupational health http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/570/kw/occupational%20health/type/Employee
      If there is an aspect of your job that you are struggling with I would encourage you to speak with your employer so they are aware of what support you might need. Discuss any issues around increased pain and how you are looking to work shorter hours with lighter duties for a short period of time. However you should be aware that any adjustments will be at the discretion of your manager.
      It is also unclear as to why you feel you have been discriminated against, but here is a link about discrimination that you may feel is helpful: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/m/p/Asking-and-responding-to-questions-of-discrimination-in-the-workplace.pdf. You can also contact ACAS who deal with aspects of employment law if you feel that you need further assistance.
      Please also see this link regarding guidelines for sick pay http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/362/kw/sick%20pay/type/Employee
      The Fit for Work Team.

  20. Sharon Louise

    Hi, we have an employee who has become disabled and is due to return to work. He has asked for a meeting in order to discuss his return. What should I expect from the meeting and how should I prepare for the meeting?

  21. Ollie Hall

    Hi, I’ve recently returned to work following a hernia operation. During a meeting prior to my return with the Companies occupational health representative it was suggested that a phased return with adjustments would be appropriate as some of my duties consist of heavy repetitive lifting . I was told that I would be paid for my full shift regardless of how many hours my phased plan was (I am a full time contracted employee ).i have just discovered that they are only paying me for the hours that I actually worked. When I queried this they said it was because I didn’t have a fit note that specified a phased return or the medical limitations. My GP had previously advised me there was no requirement for a fit note as he was not fully familiar with my company or my duties and that it was my companies responsibility to asses the risks to me. Also if I do eventually get paid for the remainder of my contracted hours during my phased return should it be wages or SSP/CSP as I am actually at work. Thanks

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Ollie,
      Thank you for your enquiry. You would not need to have a fit note in order to return to work. Regarding you contracted hours and SSP you would need to contact your HR department as each business will have their own policy for payment of contracted hours. However, SSP is only payable for days where you have not worked at all, so if you have attended work on any day, then SSP is not payable. Please read the following guidance and information that may be helpful around understanding sick pay: http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/362
      And more information here about the phased return http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/615
      If you require further assistance with your enquiry please contact our advice line by visiting the Fit for Work website at http://fitforwork.org/
      The Fit for Work Team.

  22. Carmen

    Hi,
    I’ve been in light duties due to back pain since January. Since February my employer offered me another position which I’m not qualified or trained for. Now I want to come back to work and I have been deemed “Fit for work” by my GP. My question is: who decides that I can come back to work, my GP or Occupational Health?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Carmen,
      Thank you for your enquiry. It is great to hear your recovery is going well and you now feel well enough to return to work. Either your GP or your Occupational Health provider can determine if you return to your role. I suspect your employer will be trying to ensure that you are fit for your role, particularly if a degree of manual handling is required. Essentially it is up to your employer to decide, but when the role has specific risks it would not be unusual for the employer to require a specific risk assessment.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  23. Petronel Paun

    Hello. I was on medical leave for six months after a bypass operation and on Monday 3 august I was supposed to return to work but my employer said I need to be deemed ‘fit for work’. I asked my GP but they said these are no longer issued. I’m not sure what to do. Thanks.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Petronel,
      Thank you for your enquiry. I think there is some confusion here about whether you require a Fit Note which states you are fit to return to work or whether you need a Fit for Work assessment. Try to clarify with your employer which one they require. If they are requesting a Fit Note which states you are fit to return to work, then your GP is correct – these do not tend to be issued/required now and once a fit note has expired you are free to return to work, indeed if you feel well enough and your employer is satisfied that you are and do not pose a risk to your self or others then you may return to work at any time during a Fit Note. However, if your employer requires a Fit for Work assessment, then you can ask your GP to refer you to Fit for Work, details of the referral process can be found on our web-site http://fitforwork.org/
      The Fit for Work Team.

  24. Jacqueline B

    Hi,
    I have been signed off work for 17 months due to bi-lateral golfers elbow and I had an operation on each which failed. I have been advised by my health care provider that I have a chronic illness, which has also been backed up by my consultant surgeon, my doctor, the company’s doctor, and my physiotherapist. My works insurers have recently had me assessed by an independent physiotherapist, who has advised that I am capable of a phased return to work, and that they are no longer prepared to support my claim, therefore I no longer have any income with the only alternative but to go back to the same job which is what is on offer. I am incapable of doing this job as it is the reason for my illness, caused by repetitive strain of the job requirements.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Jacqueline,
      We are sorry to hear of your on-going health problems. Did you have a specific questions which you wanted us to answer? If you feel that the independent physiotherapist has offered advice which you do not feel is appropriate, can you establish if there is an appeals process which you can follow? If so – take any and all documentation from the surgeon/GP and company doctor to support this. Alternatively, consider if there is any way you can return to your role, with some adjustment if necessary, and ask if the company doctor can make any recommendations of what adjustments you may need.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  25. Ohmesh

    My partner suffered a stress reaction in mid May following harsh treatment by her managers. Her sick note has expired saying that her doctor no longer needed to see her, the employer insisted she see an occupational health specialist which took some weeks to arrange, the report from the specialist arrived two weeks later (in mid June) which stating that my partner had suffered a ‘normal stress reaction’ given the treatment she received and that she could return to full time work and ‘a meeting should take place as soon as possible for issues to be discussed’. This meeting did not not place until the end of July and at the meeting no return to work date was proposed, another meeting was arranged for the first week in August but for some reason the employer said the meeting had not been confirmed and rescheduled the meeting as a ‘grievance investigation meeting’ with a date yet to be confirmed. The company asked my partner to get a sick note to cover her up to the date of the grievance meeting otherwise they would not pay her SSP.
    Can an employer continue to prevent an employee from returning to work and not pay them even though they are considered fit to return to work by their occupational therapist and their doctor?
    Surely my partner should be receiving full pay from the day her sick note ran out or when the occupational therapist said she was fit to return to work?
    Can a company force an employee to sign themselves off sick when they have been told they are fit to work?
    The company are clearly using the fact that my partner has raised a grievance against her manager as an excuse to exclude her from work without pay (Two months so far and counting).

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Ohmesh,
      Thank you for your enquiry. We are sorry to hear of your partners issues at the present time and would suggest that your partner speak with Human Resources to establish why she is being prevented from returning to work. If your partner is fit for work, then her GP should not issue a Fit Note. We would suggest you speak to ACAS regarding whether or not the employer should be receiving SSP or whether she should actually be on full pay. The telephone number for ACAS is 0300 123 1100 or you can ‘Ask a Question’ via their website http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1410
      The Fit for Work Team.

  26. Bobby Chancellor

    Hi,
    I have been off work since January this year, due to having Cancer. I have been undergoing chemotherapy since then till now, I have spoken to my employer about a staged comeback to work and they have said that a staged return is set between 4-6 weeks! After I return part time? is this true??
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Bobby

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Bobby,

      It is great that you are recovering well and beginning to plan your return to work. It is really at the discretion of companies to decide how long they can support a phased return to work, and most of the medical evidence suggests that four to six weeks would meet the needs of most employees returning to work from a range of illnesses. The assumption is really that if an employee is not well enough to increase their hours over a 4-6 week period – they may not yet be well enough to consider a return. There are however always exceptions, and a return to work on shorter hours after chemotherapy can be really helpful physically and mentally if carefully planned.
      If your company does not have access to occupational health services, you could ask your GP to refer you to Fit for Work and we could help you plan the return to meet your needs.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  27. verity

    I have been off with anxiety and depression for nearly 4 months and awaiting therapy Gp has signed me off until 3rd September 2015 with no need for further review however I am concerned re my capability currently how can I return on a phased return throgh GP or manager>

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Verity,
      Thank you for your enquiry, you have a number of options. You can either discuss a phased return to work with your employer who may be very happy to accommodate this, you can ask your GP to write on your Fit Note that you are fit for work with adjustments (a phased return to work), or you can speak to either your manager or your GP and ask them if they can refer you to Fit for Work for an assessment. Our website http://www.fitforwork.org gives more information on making a referral for both your GP and your employer. Once we receive the referral we can undertake an assessment of your needs with regard to returning to work and make the necessary recommendations for your employer to enable you to get back to work in the way which is right for you.
      Hopefully this answers your queries but please do not hesitate to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  28. Shelby Dorsett

    My daughter has had some instances off sick over the last year due to hospital appointments for an ongoing illness that has still not been diagnosed. She now has a disciplinary hearing which could result in dismissal. Also her new manager has backdated sick pay and has deducted this over a number of months from her wages. I have read that she should have had a letter and given written consent for this to happen is his true? Also is she really at risk of losing her job?? Thanks Shelby

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Shelby,
      Thank you for your enquiry.We believe that the questions you have raised would be better answered by ACAS as they seem to be related to employment law and payment. ACAS have a website where you can ask questions on line http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 or your can call their helpline 0800 123 1100. Your daughter should also check the company policies around hospital appointments – some companies will consider this sick leave but others often permit time off to attend hospital, but this may be unpaid.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  29. Majid Wahid

    Hi,

    I have been off work due to an operation to my spinal cord which was in October 2013. I have been off sick ever since & not worked. However I wa given a fit note at the end of November 2014 by my GP saying I can return to work to amended duties or a phased return. I contacted my employer whom denied me the opportunity to come back to my previous role as I had walking stickstick saying I wasn’t for for work. I would be to slow. So he tried to pay me off with a p45. However I’m a union member so I checked with my union & had a grievance meeting. There was not outcome but I went to another meeting for a work capability hearing. They said they would organise a health assessment. Now that was in March 2015. I have still had no answer. They did try to call me back to work by a shortcut but I’m really lost. My union rep says I should keep asking them when my assessment can be put in place ? But I’m really lost at this time.

    Regards Majid

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Majid
      Thank you for your enquiry. In these instances it is most likely that your employer is trying to obtain information as to whether you are fit to undertake your substantive role, and if there were any reasonable adjustments which they could accommodate. I would suggest you contact your Human Resources department and ask if they have arranged your referral for an independent assessment, and if not, if this could this be arranged. It is unclear what you mean by your business trying to call you back to work via a short cut, but perhaps this is also something you could discuss with your employer.
      If you have concerns about being prevented from returning to work, you may wish to contact ACAS for further advice on the legal aspects of this. They do have a helpline – 0800 123 1100 – or you could look at their website http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 where you can also ask questions on line.
      We hope this information is helpful, but please do not hesitate to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  30. louise

    I have just returned to work after 6 months on sick leave. My doctor recommended a phased return to work. I usually work a four day week so my employer suggested I do two days for two weeks then three days the next week then back to my full four the week after. I am satisfied with this but wondered if am required to take annual leave for the other two days per week that I am off or should this be unpaid? Thanking you in advance for your help.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Louise
      Thank you for your enquiry. We are pleased to hear you are feeling better and ready to begin your return to work. As you have been absent for 6 months, it is likely that your entitlement to SSP has expired, so we would suggest you speak to your employer – if you still have some entitlement to SSP you will be able to be paid for the days you do work, and SSP may be payable for the days you do not work during your phased return to work. If you are currently in receipt of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) you should speak to your local job centre adviser who will explain how the return to work will affect your entitlement to continued ESA.
      You might also wish to speak with your employer to see if they have any policies in place regarding this, as some companies are able to pay in full during this phased period, but this is entirely a company decision.
      If all entitlements are exhausted then you may wish to consider whether to use up untaken annual leave which you will have accumulated during your sick leave, or whether you would prefer to take this time off unpaid.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  31. FY

    Dear Fit for Work Team,
    I would like to know whether the Fit for Work case manager will refer/provide me to have rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy during the period when i am not fit for work. Do fit for work provide any medical treatment to help me return to work in a shorter time? thanks.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Fy,
      Thank you for your enquiry regarding the provision of treatment by Fit for Work. Fit for Work do not make any referrals for treatment. However, if it is appropriate we may make a recommendation for treatment that your employer may wish to fund in order to assist your return to work. If your employer does agree to refer you for private treatment, then they would be entitled to up to £500 tax exemption on the cost of that treatment.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  32. Sophie

    Hi
    I have been signed off sick from work for just over 6 months now. In a recent meeting with my employer we discussed the possiblity of starting a phased return to work mid October, which I feel I will be ready for. My employer suggested that I remain signed off sick from work for the first 2 weeks of this phased return (and has asked me to go back to the doctor to obtain a new sick note to cover this period). Is it legal for me to be signed off sick from work whilst starting a phased return or should a phased return, be extactly that?

    If it is illegal please could you point me in the right direction for some official wording on this so I can take it with me to my next meeting please.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Sophie,

      Thank you for your enquiry regarding the payment of SSP during a phased return to work.
      It is perfectly legal for you to be signed off sick whilst returning to work on a phased return to work. You should ask your GP to provide you with a Fit Note, which states that you will be Fit for Work with adjustments, and those adjustments would be a phased Return to Work.
      In this way, your GP is confirming you would be fit to return to work, but also covering you for the payment of SSP if you are still receiving it. This means that for the days you do work your employer would pay you normally, and for any full days not worked you would be entitled to SSP. SSP is not payable for any days where you have worked part of the day.
      Hopefully this helps clarify matters for you.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  33. JB

    I am due to return to work following abdomial surgery after 7 weeks on a phased return. My employer has rostered me for 5 shifts working 5hrs per shift increasing this to 6 hrs the following week. With the possibility of working full shifts by the 3rd week is this right

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Janet, thank you for your enquiry.
      Each phased return should be based on the capability of the individual undertaking it, and it would also depend on the type of work you will be doing. However, undertaking the return you have indicated takes you to 10 weeks after your surgery, so providing your work is not extremely heavy manual work, the pattern you outline should be achievable. We would suggest you arrange to have regular meetings with your manager to discuss how things are going, and that way you can address any issues quickly and highlight any concerns you may have.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  34. Dan

    Hello, I had a spinal cord injury many years ago (recovered 90% of the functions), now I have an office job but I am off sick since February 2015 due to neuropathic pain caused by stress at work (confirmed by tests and specialists). I have followed all possible therapies, but have made very small progress since. I have income protection insurance, which should have started to pay in August, but they are still to confirm the claim. Last week I was requested to visit Occupational Health, which advised a phased return to work: from home for 2 months, then start work in office from 4h/day increasing to full time over another 3 months. My employer kindly accepts that plan. I am willing to return to work as I have no income. Could you please clarify:
    1. What if my GP considers I am not yet ready for return to work, as this may worsen my symptoms?
    2. What if I start to work now as advised by OH, but the symptoms worsen and I have to be on sick leave again? Would that invalidate my claim with the insurer?
    3. What if my return to work will take longer than estimated by OH? (their estimates are clearly out of thin air).
    Many thanks, Dan

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Dan,
      Thank you for your enquiry. In response to your questions we would advise the following:
      a) If your GP considers you not yet ready for work, then it will be up to your employer whether to take the advice of your GP or of the Occupational Health Specialist you saw. If you feel, as you do, that your condition has been aggravated by stress at work, we would suggest that you discuss a Stress Risk Assessment with your manager prior to your return to work. The following link will provide some guidance with this which you can use as the basis for your discussion with your manager – http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/387/kw/stress/type/Employer.
      b) Unfortunately each insurer will have differing policies regarding attempted return to work and we would suggest you contact them directly to discuss this possibility, they will then be able to provide you with accurate advice.
      c) You do not indicate in your query whether Occupational Health have made any plans to continue to review you during your phased return to work, but if not, then we would suggest you have regular review meetings with your manager to discuss how things are going. This will help address any issues promptly which will avert further difficulties. Your Occupational Health provider has recommended a very long phased return to work, and with the right support in place, this should be achievable. Each employer will have different policies with regard to this eventuality so it would be worth speaking to your manager about this as well. It is possible that a formal reduction in hours may be indicated, should you not be able to achieve your return to work in the suggested time frames.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  35. Alison

    Hi
    On 19 May 2015 I began work however had to stop as I was unwell. I had been involved in a road traffic accident a few days earlier and on the 16 Sept had emergency surgery on my eye possibly caused by the accident. I have yet to return to work. I am entitled to six months full pay, six months half pay. If I return to work on phased hours ie 4 hours a day, are these days counted towards my six months entitlement

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Alison,
      Thank you for your enquiry. As you are entitled to six months full pay and six months half pay, this would be company sick pay rather that Statutory Sick Pay, therefore it will be a company decision on what would count towards your entitlement. With regard to Statutory Sick Pay, this is payable for 28 weeks and would only be payable for full days not worked. So, if you were to return on 4 hours per day, you would not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay for the hours not worked. We would suggest that you discuss this with your manager or Human Resources staff who will be able to inform you of the company policy on paying company sick pay.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  36. laura

    Hello,

    My partners was signed off for 4 weeks after a burglary at work.
    His work have said they want to integrate him back into work but his pay will be cut, can he return to work without this happening.
    Is it his choice or the choice of the employer? Also is it true that his pay will be reduced during this time, he is a 37 hour contract and wants to go back asap on full pay.
    Thank you
    Laura :)

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Laura,
      Thank you for your enquiry. It’s good to hear your partner is recovering and reaching a point where he is able to return to work. It sounds as though his employer is happy to support him and allow him to return to work in an integrated manner. With regard to pay during this period, this is dependant to some degree on the policies of his employer. If he receives company sick pay at present, then in this instance it will be for the company itself to decide how they will pay the employee in these circumstances.
      If your partner is receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), this is only payable for full days not worked. So for example, if he worked 3 days per week, he would receive his normal contractual pay for those 3 days, but would be entitled to receive SSP for the days he did not work. However, if he worked 5 half days then SSP would not be payable.
      If he feels well enough he can of course return to work on normal hours, and the option of returning gradually is usually provided to offer support to people returning to work after illness. If he does return to full time working, he should of course receive his normal pay. We hope this helps with your enquiry.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  37. HD77

    Hi,

    I’ve had two operations in two months and have been signed unfit to work by the doctors since my first operation 6 weeks ago. I’m in a relatively senior position and during that time none of my work has been reallocated to anyone else.

    i’ve had enourmous pressure from work to work from home during my time off (using my left arm despite being right handed and having an operation on my right shoulder) and then a laproscopy last Monday when they expected me to start working again 2 days later, whilst still having right arm in sling!

    I’ve been working on average half days throughout my absence and even attended work on Friday due to pressure as it’s the company’s year end.

    Where do I stand with these hours worked. Am I entitled to ssp even though I’ve worked? Can my employer not pay me for these hours as I was officially on unpaid sick leave? My manager has even publically told people I’m working from home including our external accountants for example, yet mentioned on Friday that as I’ve exceedef my sick leave I won’t get paid.

    Feeling frustrated to have struggled to work in pain approx 3 weeks worth of hours work for nothing, and prob slowing down my recovery.

    At the moment I’ve not handed in my sick notes. I feel once I do then I’m entitled to no pay for the work I’ve done. By telling everyone that I’m working from home is that not him giving me permission to work from home and flex my working conditions instead of me taking sick leave?

    Feeling very sore, fed up and stressed :-(

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Heather,
      Thank you for your enquiry. We would advise that you speak to your HR department regarding pay for the hours you have been working – technically if you are working from home, you would still be considered as working and should therefore be paid at least for the hours worked. In terms of SSP if you work even part of a day you will not be entitled to SSP. Again your HR department will be able to provide you with their policy with regards to company sick pay. We would advise that you have a discussion with your immediate manager regarding whether you are actually on sick leave or undertaking adjusted duties when you are working at home.
      Since you feel that attempting to undertake these duties is affecting your recovery, then perhaps you also need to discuss this with your employer and advise them of how you feel. An informed decision can then be made about whether you should currently be undertaking this work. With regard to your Fit Note, you are able to work during the course of a fit note so handing this in should not be an issue for you. However, it seems that you require some guidance about what you are able to do currently.
      You could consider asking your employer or GP to refer you in to Fit for Work for an assessment and we can make personalised recommendations on returning to work. We hope you find this helpful.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  38. charles pearce

    I have been off sick for the best part of the year. After carpal tunnel relief I went back to work in December last year after 12 weeks. I then developed Reynaurds, and have been off sick since April of this year. Four doctors, 2 specialists and a occupational health report say I can now go back to work on amended hours and amended duties. My manger says NO as there is nothing like that where I work. If I can’t do my contracted job and hours, then he will sack me.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Charles,
      Thank you for your enquiry. It is entirely up to your employer to decide if they can accommodate adjusted duties and a phased return to work. The advice given by Occupational Health is advisory only, and if your employer feels they are unable to assist with this then this would be for them to decide – although all decisions should be considered.
      If your employer is unable to accommodate the adjustments, then you should work on continuing with your recovery by gradually increasing your activity over the period of recommended adjustment, so that by the end of that time you will be better equipped to return to your substantive role.
      You could also request a referral back to Occupational Health prior to your return to work, in order to confirm that you are able to undertake your role at that time.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  39. John Swift

    Hi

    I tried to return to work on a phased return some weeks ago. It went terribly badly, assurances were broken, goals changed without discussion. It ended with a very innapropriate meeting which I have raised a grievance regarding.

    I was signed off sick again and have now returned to work. They are now refusing a phased return, and insisting I am managed by the manager responsible for the last mess.

    Where do I stand? Confused and lost.

    Best

    John

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi John,
      Thank you for your enquiry. Sorry to hear your return to work did not go to plan, however, it is up to the employer to make the decision on implementing adjustments at work, including a phased return.
      With regard to the issues with your manager, perhaps if he/she understood your position better they would be more sympathetic and open to helping you to return to work. Can you discuss this further with your HR department, who can perhaps liaise with your manager so that some mutual understanding can be achieved. If you feel unable to resolve your issues in the workplace, you may wish to consider contacting ACAS who can offer mediation services when this is appropriate.
      The Fit for Work team.

  40. andy

    Can you be disciplined for a former issue which occurred prior whilst on a phased return to work? A manager had put in a spurious grievance about being threatened by an employee and the independent director now seems to favour his manager’s story, although there were no witnesses. after returning from long term sick the employer now wants to set an agenda for discipline whilst the phase return is still in place.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Andy,
      Thank you for your enquiry. We believe this is really a matter of employment law and that ACAS would be better placed to assist you with your enquiry. You can contact ACAS on 0800 123 1100 or if you go to their website http://www.acas.org.uk you can ask a question on line. If you are in a union you could ask your union representative for further advice and guidance.
      The Fit for Work Team.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Andy,
      In addition to the above answer it should be noted that essentially, there are no time limits for where an employer wishes to carry out an investigation of a disciplinary issue – and these can unfortunately sometimes be delayed by extensive sickness absence. If a hearing is required, this can take place during a phased return to work as long as the employee is well enough to attend, and there are usually only rare grounds where we would advise not to press ahead, as delays also cause anxiety.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  41. Carl

    I have been off work sick since June 2009 (mental illness), and there is a job that has come up which really interests me. How do I go about this? How do I explain the gap in my CV? Can you offer some advice please?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Carl,
      We would recommend that you are honest when filling in your CV with regards to the gap in your CV for June 2009. Currently 1 in 6 of people are dealing with mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress and it is becoming more of an accepted issue. Most workplaces have some kind of occupational health system to support employees in the work place. If your mental health is managed using medication or any other treatment, don’t be afraid to inform your new manager, as they will be able to support you with this too. For more information about the Equality Act click on the following link: http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/270/type/Employee
      The Fit for Work Team.

  42. Chris

    I had spinal cord surgery 4 weeks ago. I have been cleared to return to work by my doctor.I am a teacher assistant at a day treatment center for non-violent teenagers. The program is a hands free program that is run by the state, but I am a public school employee. I am being told though I have a medical release I my employer will most likely not let me return to work because I still have to wear a hard neck brace. Can an employer deny you work when you have been medically released.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Chris,
      Your manager may benefit from conducting a risk assessment on your return to work, and may also discuss with you some reasonable work place adjustments for a period of time. Your employer may be following the standard policies and procedures for your workplace with regards to health and safety, and it is up to them whether or not you are able to come back to work, or whether you have to wait till your fully fit. You can approach your employer or your GP to be referred into Fit for Work, where you will be given a free occupational health assessment and a unique Return to Work Plan created just for you with suggested reasonable adjustments. Please note that your employer will be under no obligation to necessarily comply with these suggestions.
      The Fit for Work Team.

  43. Np

    Hi

    We have an employee who has been off work since May 2015. He returned on a phased return to work basis in October for three days a week. We paid him for the days he worked (3 days a week)

    He now has a doctors note for one week but since he is only working three days a week, should I pay him SSP for the three days as SSP applies to 4 days or more sick days off work.

    Confused!

    Thank you

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Np,
      Yes you would only pay your employee the three days that he works. You can get £88.45 a week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks and you can only get SSP for the days you would normally have worked. SSP is not paid for the first three days you’re off, unless you’ve been paid SSP within the last 8 weeks and are eligible for it again. https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/what-youll-get
      The Fit for Work Team.

  44. F Moffat

    Hi, my husband was off for 6 months with depression after his boss refused a request from him to work 3 days. He has been back to work 3 weeks and has had a TIA, so will be off at least another month. He is 63, a carpenter and is on building sites. Speaking to his boss he said he would be as well off as he couldn’t work on the site. It is a family business. What I am asking is I know he will have to go on to ESA in the coming weeks would it be prudent for my husband to insist on a phased return to work as previous requests have been met with downright hostility.

    • Fit for Work team

      Dear Fiona,
      Your husband may benefit from asking about returning to work on a phased return, as this will increase his confidence levels and will enable him to build up his strength, capacity and tolerance to work gradually rather than waiting until he is fully fit before returning. Your husband may also require a risk assessment before returning to work and returning to his normal duties. Additionally, your husband may benefit from being referred into Fit for Work (either by his GP or his employer) and having an assessment carried out by an occupational health specialist who will be able to give advice on workplace adjustments via a personalised Return to Work Plan: http://fitforwork.org/employer/
      http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/616
      The Fit for Work Team.

  45. Marianne

    Hi there,
    I am currently off work pending an operation and have tried twice to return to work on a phased return but my manager has not adhered to the fit note and has actually increased my duties and hours, as well as preventing me from applying for an internal promotion. He has also told staff not to contact me at home either about work or anything else. I have an excellent track record and good attendance prior to needing this operation. There is no concern about my practice. I am concerned that I am being bullied out. What can I do? Can my manager do this?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Marianne,
      If there is support available within your organisation, such as Human Resources or a more senior manager, you may wish to consider contacting these. You can also be helped with workplace issues such as these via ACAS – their advice is impartial and free of charge and the website is: ACAS.org.uk. It is really important that you are able to air your concerns and ensure they are addressed, and ACAS can also support these discussions with your employer where this would be helpful.
      The Fit for Work team.

  46. CJBinns

    I’ve just returned to work following 5weeks I’d sick leave. I’m on a phased return to work organised by the occupational health nurse. I’ve now been told for the hours I don’t work during my phased return I have to make up the hours with my annual leave. Otherwise I will not be paid the full time hours. This will add up to three weeks of annual leave used over the 5 weeks of phased return. Is this right?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Carolynne,
      Company policy dictates what is and is not paid in relation to company sick pay, and statutory sick pay is not payable for part days. Many companies use annual leave entitlement to support a phased return to work, and as annual leave accrues during periods of absence this will usually mean that after long-term absence there is sometimes more available to take. We hope your return is successful.
      The Fit for Work team.

  47. Adele

    Hi

    I work fulltime and I am now on a phased return to work recently after 5 weeks off following a miscarriage, I have gone from 5 days per week to 3 days per week and I should receive 12 weeks OSP. My employer has only been paying me for the days that I work and not paying me any OSP or SSP for the days I am not working even though I have a note from my doctor advising I only work part time. Should I be being paid OSP for 2 days per week and salary for the 3 days I do work? Also should I still be accruing annual leave as a full time employee? They have pro rata’d this also.

    Many thanks

    Adle

  48. Pauline Green

    Hi
    Just wondered if you could advise? I am recovering following a hysterectomy. I went to see my consultant and she said I needed to take another 4 weeks off work. However my gp said he disagreed and has signed me fit for work. He did not examine me or ask me anything about my recovery. Who do I listen to? What do I do ?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Pauline,
      Without knowing what your job is or how long you have already been absent it’s a little harder to comment, but surgeons and GPs should usually follow the guidance below in relation to return to work after a hysterectomy (unless there have been significant problems / complications after the operation). As such, in an administrative, active or light manual role, you would be able to consider going back to work 2-4 weeks after the surgery, if you are feeling well. Regardless of the advice from the surgeon or your GP, it is actually your decision when you return to work in that you can choose to return before a fit note expires if you feel fit and well. Your employer in this case should usually meet with you though, to ensure a basic risk assessment is carried out so that your return is safe:
      Hysterectomy (abdominal) – Sedentary admin/Sedentary light manual/Active light manual: 2-4 weeks
      Hysterectomy (abdominal) – Heavy manual/Physically demanding: 6-8 weeks
      Hysterectomy (laparoscopic) – Sedentary admin/Sedentary light manual/Active light manual: 2-4 weeks
      Hysterectomy (laparoscopic) – Heavy manual/Physically demanding: 4-6 weeks
      Hysterectomy (vaginal) – Sedentary admin/Sedentary light manual/Active light manual: 2-4 weeks
      Hysterectomy (vaginal) – Heavy manual/Physically demanding: 4-6 weeks
      The Fit for Work team.

  49. sarah summerfield

    Hi I had 11.5 days off work due to sickness but not all in my given time…. I am not being told that I have to have a meeting with HR to discuss my future with the company.

    I just don’t understand why they are doing this to me when other member of the team have had months off :( I have always said to my manager I can get a sick note of doctor to cover my absences and have seen the doctor every time I have been poorly….

    I think its disgusting the way I have been treated this isn’t the first meeting I have had and I was off 4 days 1 day was in may 2015 and the other was in june 15 for 3.5 days I was sent home from work… stayed off for rest of week to get better I was then given a meeting saying I wasn’t ill at all.

    The company has been making me feel like rubbish I work hard when im here but they make rumors up about me I have been told 3 x by members of staff that I am in a domestic relationships I come to work feeling so down !

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Sarah,
      We are sorry to hear this has caused such distress. It really is quite common policy for employers to take steps to manage attendance at work at an early stage, and this should usually apply across the board to all staff. Though it may seem unfair that some colleagues have had much longer absences than others, most companies treat long-term absences quite differently to short-term absences, and it is common for companies to set ‘trigger’ points where they would want to discuss this. The trigger may vary, but it could be two or three absences within a 12 month period.
      The meetings are usually held in order to discuss the absences, enquire about whether there are any ongoing issues likely to result in more absence, if there are any issues at work, and most commonly, whether the company can do anything to help you. Sometimes, targets are set for future attendance over an agreed period of time.
      You can find further information that may help on this page of the ACAS site – http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4201 – where employers are advised on how they can manage attendance within the workplace. If we can help further please do not hesitate to contact our freephone advice line by calling 0800 032 3265.
      The Fit For Work team.

  50. Charlene

    In November last year I was signed off work as broke my ankle.
    I was off for 5 weeks and then given a phased to work sickline, during this time I made an error which 10 months later has just came apparent.
    My company are looking to discipline me, is this something they can do on while i was still on a phased back to work sicknote?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Charlene,
      Whilst on a phased return, the hours worked would usually be treated in the same way as any others when full time – and as such, errors made that require disciplinary action would not usually be exempt. The only exception to this could be where adjustments are also agreed during a phased return period such as increased supervision or support. We hope that answers your question,
      The Fit for Work team.

  51. Mark

    Thank you for the blog.

    I am currently off with Stress and a flare-up of Colitis (which has now calmed down).My absence follows a complaint I made about an unfair selection process for promotion. The complaint is now progressing via ACAS. Whilst I hoped it would have been sorted before my return, it is clear that it will take longer. I don’t want to be off longer than is necessary. I am signed off until 20/01/16. I would like to return to work, but think a phased return would be best, rather than a “hit the ground running” approach.

    How do I negotiate the phasing? Should my GP dictate it or does the employer decide? Do I need a Fitness To Work certificate for the phased period?

    Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Mark,
      Thank you for your enquiry. We would agree that it is best to return to work as soon as you are able, and there are a number of options you could take with regard to negotiating a phased return to work. You could simply speak to your manager and agree this, or, you could ask your GP if he is able to include this in the fit note, and then negotiate the details with your employer prior to your return to work.
      A further alternative could be that either your GP or employer could refer you to Fit for Work, and following your assessment a case manager could make this recommendation if they felt it was justified and required. Any recommendations made either by the GP or Fit for Work would be recommendations only, and ultimately it is for the employer to make the decision if they can accommodate this adjustment. You would require a fit for work certificate for this period.
      We hope this helps with your enquiry
      The Fit for Work team.

  52. Anne

    Hi,

    I am currently off work with stress and have been for three months should my team leader have referred me to the occupational health team at my place of work by now? The main part of the stress is work related. When I told my team leader that I would like to speak to a member of the occupational team to discuss a phase to work plan, she was reluctant and said that she would speak to me in a couple of weeks and that once I return I would be working at the main branch of the company (where the team leader is based) for training and supervision purposes for about two months rather than at the sub branch that I am normally at. The main branch of the company is in another city, which is about 30 miles away and involves a train and bus journey to get there. Can they insist upon this?

    Any advice would be gratefully received.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Anne,
      Any referral to Occupational Health would be according to your employer’s policies and procedures. It would be helpful for you to have a discussion with your line manager and express your anxieties. It might also be helpful for both you and your manager to consider a stress risk assessment, either before you return to work or shortly after you have returned. This will help to identify any actual or potential issues within the work place or duties and you and your manager can then take steps as necessary to address them. Information about this can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk and search stress risk assessment.
      In relation to the move of office, again, it would be helpful for you to speak with your manager and let them know that this is a concern for you. A period of training and supervision may also be helpful for you to return to work as symptoms of stress at work can often be linked to training needs and addressing these can help in some cases to reduce anxiety. Whether or not the company can insist on you moving to another branch would depend on their policies and your contract of employment.
      You may wish to request a referral to Fit for Work (If you live in England or Wales), where a Case Manager will undertake a telephone assessment with you, identify obstacles to returning to work and help to formulate a Return to Work Plan which you can choose who you share with, usually, your manager and GP. The Return to Work Plan will contain recommendations for work place adjustments, as well as techniques to help you recover/reduce the symptoms of stress. Your GP or employer can make this referral through our web site http://www.fitforwork.org.
      The Fit for Work team

  53. Lisa

    Lisa
    i was on sick leave from Dec 17th to Jan 4th. On Jan 5th, I was in hospital to get my clearance letter so could not attend duty but my clearance letter mentions Jan 5th. Does the 5th goes still as STD or can it be counted as a vacation leave.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Lisa,
      If your fit note states that you were fit for work on 5th January, then your “sick” period ended on 4th January. If you did not attend work on 5th Jan, your employer would need to refer to their own policies to advise you whether you are able to take an annual leave day or not.
      If your fit note expired on 5th Jan, then your “sick” period ended on 5th Jan, meaning you are fit to return to work on 6th Jan.
      The Fit for Work team

  54. Laura

    Hi I’ve been signed off work for some time now. Coming up two years. I did have a job before I started feeling ill, but lost that job due to severe clinical depression, which was starting to really affect my work and others around me. I am on medication for this have had couselling, each day is a struggle for me but nowhere near as bad as before. I have three young children that I take everyday. I feel ready to go back to work but need help and advice in getting a job as with me having children. Companies don’t tend to like the fact that I won’t be able to be as flexible as those without children, and also the fact I have been out of work for so long worries me that I will struggle to get a job. I Feel ready to go out and find work, as although I am there for my children . I feel this will help me further, and so I can provide for my children and have something for me. I don’t know where to start and I need advice on these issues. I hope someone can help me. I really would appreciate any help

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Laura,
      Fit for Work is a service aimed towards employees who remain in employment but are off work due to illness.
      Jobcentre Plus should be able to direct you to appropriate services aimed at helping people to identify appropriate roles depending on their skills and experiences. You can find information on http://www.gov.uk for further support and https://www.gov.uk/moving-from-benefits-to-work
      You can also find information regarding childcare, training and job trialling schemes.
      The Fit for Work team

  55. Lola dunlea

    Hello,
    I have recently been signed fit for work after having an accident at work and injuring my back. I have been off for about 13 months. I have been advised to use my annual leave entitlement before I come back which I have done and I am due to return to work 18/01/16. I work as a support worker in a hospital the doctor has put on my sick note that I have to avoid manual handling until March. I have been told that because I am using annual leave before I come back to work that I am not entitled to phased return. I am just wondering how true this is. Thank you for all your help.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Lola,
      If a phased return has been recommended for you by an Occupational Health professional or your GP/consultant, it is for your employer to consider, but they do not have to comply if they feel it is not reasonable to the business, it would depend upon the company policy.
      Commencing annual leave indicates that you are fit for work, rather than “sick”. Depending on your company’s policies, you might be able to take annual leave and then resume to a phased period, although this would usually be recommended by a health professional.
      Our advice would be for you to speak to your line manager about your concerns and whether a phased approach is appropriate. You would also benefit from risk assessment in relation to manual handling/patient care as well as consideration of refresher training in these areas. More information can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk.
      The Fit for Work team

  56. Samantha

    Hello.

    Thank you for your blog, I have found it very interesting. I have a bit of an odd situation. I have just returned to work after a 3 month absence due to having a car accident. I am on a phased return to work as I have a nerve and disc problem with my neck which has left me currently unable to walk for long periods of time, and at the moment I am having concentration and speech difficulties (although the speech problem is stuttering/stammering and should ease off now, as I spoke to my Doctor yesterday and it could/should hopefully be due to one of the medications I am on.)
    While I was off, I was supposed to have a disciplinary hearing for capability (one which I do not agree with due to bullying and lack of sufficient training – although that is a different conversation). My question is that I believe that my Deputy Manager wants to book me in for my hearing now that I have returned although I feel that this is unfair as I have only just returned and am not fully fit so don’t think I’d be able to argue my case correctly if that makes sense. I understand that I have to have the meeting, I just think that the timing is not correct and feel that it should wait until I am fully fit.
    Any help or advice you could give me would be very welcome.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Samantha,
      Our initial advice would be to speak to your manager in an open manner to express your anxieties and belief that you are not fit to attend disciplinary meetings at this time. It would be helpful to advise of the likely recovery time and subsequent time frame to schedule the meeting. Often, it is helpful to resolve work place issues as soon as possible and you may find that attending the meeting will also help to reduce other symptoms of reduced concentration.
      If you feel it necessary, you may wish to request an Occupational Health review to assess your fitness to work and to attend disciplinary meetings, although having a direct conversation with your manager would be the preferred initial action.
      The Fit for Work team

  57. Samantha

    Hi. I tried to post a message on here a little while ago and was wondering if you had actually received it?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Samantha,
      Yes we have received your email and will be replying to you shortly.
      Many thanks
      The Fit for Work team.

  58. Robert Bradley

    Hi there,

    A friend has been on sick leave for 5 months (following maternity leave) with severe anxiety issues. The company she works for has a sickness policy of 6 months full pay before reducing to half pay for a further period. Her GP recommended a phased return to work on her fit note, which was agreed by management. However upon her return to work she was informed that she would only be paid for the days that she works. She has been on full pay for the last 5 months and has not yet reached the 6 month trigger for half pay. I may be wrong but I thought that the days that she was not in should be treated as sick absence in line with the company’s policy i.e. still be paid at the rate she in entitled to according to the policy?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated,thanks
    Robert

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Robert,
      Our advice would be to ensure the fit note from the GP extends through the period of the phased return, which would mean the employee is able to be classed as “sick” on non working days. Any pay during this period would depend on the company policy.
      If statutory sick pay is to be paid for non working days during the phasing period, there needs to be 4 consecutive non working days, eg, employee works Tues, Wed, Thurs and is “sick” Fri – Mon for statutory sick pay purposes.
      The Fit for Work team.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Anne,
      Thank you for your email – yes we have received it but it won’t appear until we post a reply. We will be responding to your query asap.
      The Fit for Work team.

  59. Georgia

    After being off work for around 3 weeks with a sick note from the doctors I have recently tried to return to work.my manager agreed I could do slowly after. Since then I was going in to work for a few hours a day and making it longer hours each day and slowly returning back to normal duties. It’s only been going on a week and now the work place have told me not to come in and to stay off til I have completely recovered. I want to go to work but they are not allowing me and have told me they are going to employ someone else. They have not sacked me in one sense as they said I can return in a couple of months of I’m completely better. Can they do this? Thanks in advance.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Georgia,
      The employer is able to decide if they can accommodate a phased return to work or any adjustments where an employee is not fully fit. If an employer feels they cannot accommodate such adjustments, they are able to employ temporary staff/allocate the duties to another employee and ask an employee to return when they are ‘fully fit’ – though we do usually encourage to consider carefully if they can accommodate adjusted duties as this can help an employee to become fully fit more quickly. We are sorry to hear that your employer doesn’t wish for you to continue in an adjusted role – you could ask them for more information on why this is and if there is a compromise available? If not, we wish you a speedy recovery and successful return to work.
      The Fit for Work team

  60. Anne

    Thank you very much for your response.

    Does my employer have to (legally) enforce any recommendations made to them by the fit for work team or occupational health team or my GP?

    I think my employer will ignore them, since she hasn’t bothered to refer me to the company’s occupational health team, even after my GP suggested I discuss it with my employer.. My doctor has said that I am not fit for work at the moment and said that I will be phased back to work. I’m very worried that if the advice is ignored I will be forced to resign.

    Thanks again.

    Anne

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Anne,
      We’re sorry to hear that you feel your employer is not likely to support any recommendations for adjustments at work. It is always the employer’s decision as to whether they can support recommendations – and they can always contact our advice line to discuss these and find out more. We very much hope you can agree a way forward with your employer.
      The Fit for Work team

  61. Mel

    Good morning – I have a friend seeking advice. He is due to return to a full time teaching position in March, following 12 months treatments of Leukemia. His Head Teacher has asked that he presents a proposal for a phased return to work. Over what time and with what reduction of hours would be acceptable? How does this effect pay? Is there any guidance on what a proposal could look like?

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Mel,
      There are several options you could suggest to your friend with regards to phased returns and pay. Firstly your friend could ask if the school has access to occupational health and if he could be referred to them. Following an assessment, they would be able to make recommendations to the head teacher on adjustments that would support his return to the work place.
      Secondly, he could ask his GP or employer for a referral to the Fit For Work service. The referral can be done online and this service is quick, free and confidential provided he consents. To be eligible he just has to have been off work for 4 weeks or more. A case manager would work with him to produce a return to work plan which can include recommendations such as a phased return. The case manager can also speak to his employer with his consent and discuss adjustments that are likely to support him as he returns to his post.
      Another option would be to his GP or Specialist as they should have in-depth knowledge of his physical condition, past and present treatments and what his physical capabilities are likely to be. There is also space on the Fit Note that his doctor can use to advise the employer with. He could also discuss his options with his union representative as they will also be able to offer advice and support.
      In terms of what a phased returns looks like, the simple answer is that they vary. Large companies allow permitted hours e.g. 2 hours per week. This gives an employee who has been absent for some time an opportunity to be gradually reintroduced to the work environment. An employer may allow employees to return to work on up to 50% of their usual hours, building up to their contractual hours over a number of weeks or months. There are no hard and fast rules and the return is often guided by company policies and discussions between the employee and employer and whether the employer can accommodate the request. If your friend feels he would struggle to maintain full time hours he could ask if his employer could consider a temporary reduction in his contractual hours. As he has a diagnosis of cancer he automatically comes under the Equality Act 2010. His employer is under a legal obligation to consider making reasonable adjustments for him. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.
      In answer to questions around a proposed phased return and pay, again there are no clear guidelines. The employer may set out guidance for sickness and phased returns in the employee’s contract or company policies and procedures. It is also worth consulting his union on what the employer has offered to employees in the past. Some employers offer very generous terms and pay an employee’s full salary even if the employee is working very few hours, as they feel it encourages the employee to return to work sooner. Many employers pay for the hours worked and the employee claims SSP for days they don’t work provided they meet the qualifying criteria. Others employers allow employees to make up their salary using holidays. Your friend has likely accrued holidays while he has been absent and he may wish to discuss using these to make up his pay. Again, it’s down to what the employer considers reasonable.
      The Fit for Work team

  62. Vickie

    Vickie

    I have been off sick for six weeks and th doctors has said I can go back on 18 hours a week until 1st March my question is does my employer have to allow me to have my old contract back after this period ie the same hours or do they have to do a new one

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Vickie,
      Thank you for your enquiry. The recommendation of returning to work for 18 hours per week made by your GP is a recommendation only and there is no obligation on your employer to implement this if they are not able to do so. However, most employers regard this as a temporary measure and once your condition has improved they would generally re-instate your normal work and hours. We would advise that you contact your Human Resources department or your manager who will be able to advise you on the company’s workplace policy and perhaps offer you some reassurance and clarity.
      The Fit for Work team

  63. Kay Smith

    I am a teacher and have been on sick leave since 7th January with a prolapsed disc in my neck. I am awaiting an appointment with a specialist to decide the next course of treatment. I am on strong painkillers which really help with the pain but make me incredibly tired and forgetful. If I am too active, pain returns despite the painkillers.
    I really feel I could return to work on a half day basis – but not to teach as working with thirty 7 year olds and being in a classroom is too physically demanding and would significantly increase pain. Also I would be too tired on the medication to work all day and could certainly not work for the 3 hours of evening marking and planning at home. The GP says it’s up to me to decide what level of pain/tiredness I can take. But there is no teaching job I can do in school on a mornings only basis.

    As I am effectively not fit to do my job, how do I stand? The GP is ready to continue a not fit for work note.

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Kay,
      Thank you for your query. There are a number of actions you could undertake. You could remain absent from work, and work on some self-help techniques to improve your health. However, being off work can have a negative effect on your mood and you may find you would benefit from returning to work in some form. Perhaps your employer may be able to provide you with some alternative work or a combination of adjusted work, reduced hours etc. If your employer has an occupational health service you might ask if you can be referred to them in order that they can assess what you may be able to do if you do return to work. You could also speak to your GP or employer about obtaining a referral to Fit for Work. We are able to make recommendations and provide you with advice and guidance on managing your condition and helping to improve your condition to a point where you may be able to return to work.
      The Fit for Work team

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