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Help and support for employers (return to work)

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

Workplace adjustments can help ill, injured or disabled employees return to work. However, there may be some circumstances where you need to seek additional advice or support.

Occupational health services

Occupational health professionals are experienced medical staff who can help you manage the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, whether they are off work or in work and struggling with their health.

Where employees could return to work despite their health conditions, occupational health can help you plan a phased return to work and advise you how to carry out workplace adaptations, modifications and reasonable adjustments to accommodate your employees’ health needs.

Supporting disabled employees

If your employee is disabled, or has become disabled due to an illness or injury during their employment, you’re legally required under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments can be made to support employees in the workplace and, where it’s feasible for a person to return to work despite their health conditions, may assist a phased return to work when they’ve been absent. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the employee’s circumstances and the size, and resources, of your organisation.

Reasonable adjustments can include:

  • changes to the workplace;
  • providing specialist equipment;
  • implementing a phased return to work or flexible working arrangements;
  • providing opportunities for alternative roles.

Occupational health professionals can help put in place reasonable adjustments, while Access to Work can help contribute towards the cost of reasonable adjustments in the workplace. More information on reasonable adjustments for disabled workers can be found on GOV.UK.

Musculoskeletal disorders and back injuries

If your employee has been affected by a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) – any injury or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back – there are a range of professional services that you can use.

These could include:

  • the resources on the Fit for Work website;
  • occupational health professionals;
  • GPs;
  • physiotherapists;
  • occupational therapists;
  • complementary therapy providers.

You can find out more about how to manage MSDs in the workplace by reading our Fit for Work blog. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also has some interesting MSD resources.

Therapy and counselling

If your employee has been off work with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress, you may consider referring them to an Employee Assistance Programme such as counselling services.

Remember that if the mental health problems are work-related, it is your responsibility to carry out a risk assessment and put in place the correct controls to manage this.

Work-related stress often develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them, so HSE has designed the Management Standards approach to help you manage the causes.

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