Developing a return to work plan

Returning to work after time off can be difficult, so once reasonable adjustments have been identified and you’ve all the advice that you need, you should begin to develop a Return to Work Plan. By referring your employees to Fit for Work, you and your employees can benefit from assessments by an occupational health professional with the aim of overcoming obstacles that might be preventing them from returning to work.

Who should develop a Return to Work Plan?

This will depend upon the circumstances, but where possible, a Return to Work Plan should be developed in cooperation with all parties involved, including:

  • you (the employer);
  • line managers;
  • your employee;
  • employee representatives;
  • occupational health professionals;
  • GPs.

Before putting the plan in place, you should ensure the employee is happy with what has been agreed.

What should be included in a Return to Work Plan?

The plan should be tailored to the needs of the employee and might include:

  • goals of the Return to Work Plan;
  • the employee’s objectives;
  • time period to meet objectives and goals;
  • information about reasonable adjustments and working arrangements;
  • date of the employee’s return to work;
  • dates when the plan will be reviewed;
  • signatures of the employee and the manager.

When is the best time to develop a Return to Work Plan?

Developing a Return to Work Plan depends on the employee concerned and the nature of their absence.

If you start to develop and discuss the plan too soon, you may put pressure on the employee, but if you leave it too late, you may affect the employee’s confidence to return to work.

Generally, the best time to develop a Return to Work Plan is three to four weeks into an absence.

You can also find out how to agree and review a Return to Work Plan through The Health and Safety Executive.

Support from Fit for Work

Through Fit for Work, you can refer your employee for an assessment by a qualified clinician once they have reached, or are expected to reach, four weeks of sickness absence.

Upon referral, they will be contacted for an assessment within tw0 working days, where a case manager will look at the issues preventing the employee from returning to work.

After the assessment, employees will receive a Return to Work Plan containing recommendations to address any obstacles and help them return to work.

Find out more about Fit for Work.