Understanding the law

When your employee is ready to return to work after a period of sickness absence, it’s important to consider whether there are any specific standards or legislation that you need to comply with.

You should be aware of the following legal requirements, which may apply, depending on your individual circumstances.

Health and safety in the workplace

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires you to provide information, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety of your employees at work.

You are also expected to protect employees after they return to work if they have become more vulnerable to risk because of illness, injury or disability.

Data protection

If you are recording employee absence, you need to make sure that you are meeting data protection requirements under the Data Protection Act 1998.

As you are recording sensitive information, you need to ensure that you are following rules of good practice for handling information, and that all data is kept private.

Risk assessments

If you need to make workplace adjustments for employees who have been off sick, you should carry out a detailed risk assessment to ensure that your workplace is meeting their needs.

It is a legal requirement to identify and manage risks within your workplace under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Absence caused by workplace injuries and incidents

If your employee’s absence has been caused by sickness or injury at work, you may have to report the accident or incident under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation 2013.

Protection for disabled employees

If an employee becomes disabled due to illness or injury, you are legally required under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable the employee to return to work.

This is to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged compared to non-disabled people, and that they have equal opportunities to stay in work.

More information

The Health and Safety Executive has more guidance on legal issues related to employees who are returning to work after a sickness absence.