Returning to work after an absence, furlough, a lockdown, or working from home can be a daunting time for employees as they could experience anxiety and could be nervous when coming back into work. Having an effective return to work process not only means that you can facilitate a duty of care to your employees but also reduce persistent absences in the future.
Tips for a quick return to work
- Regular contact is important – it helps the employee keep work in mind and the employer benefits as they can keep up to date with any progress.
- Monitor the absence, make sure it is certified by the GP (if over 8 days) and if necessary, request a doctor’s report to have a better understanding of the absence/illness and talk about options to return.
- Meet with the employee and discuss returning to work as this will help identify factors that caused the absence and give you an idea of what adjustments you need to make to help prevent any future occurrences.
- Before allowing your employee to return to work always ensure that their GP has signed them as ‘fit for work’.
- Here at Wurkplace we can provide an occupational health appointment to both ease the employee back into work and protect the employer.
- When your employee is ready to return to work hold a meeting to discuss. You may consider a staged return such as a reduction in hours/days. You might also consider a reduction in workload or light duties. This can be addressed using our Occupational Health service.
- Agree on a plan that works for both the employer and employee to maintain a harmonious and efficient working environment.
What should be addressed in the return-to-work meeting?
- Any training required
- Any changes in the workplace
- If the employee has any concerns they want to raise
- When the employee considers themselves to have a disability
- If adjustments need to be made
- You should also take note of any support you offered to the employee
For clients of Wurkplace, we can provide a return to work form that you can complete within the meeting to ensure all points are addressed and documented
Returning to work after furlough, isolation or working from home
When an employee returns to work after being on furlough, isolation or working from home it may need to be addressed differently. You should still follow the above tips, but you may want to include:
- Inform the employee of how the company is covid secure and what rules they need to follow to ensure measures are effective
- Explain any risk assessments that have or will need to be carried out
- Inform them of any changes or upcoming changes that are being proposed
- How staff will travel to and from the workplace and if there are any risks with this
- If there might be a phased return of the workforce, for example some staff returning before others
- Provide information on how the employee can report and gain advice on any COVID related issues such as a breach of the new health and safety regulations put in place, if they have symptoms or any other concerns they may have such as mental health issues
The Government has set out guidelines that can accessed to ensure that employers can facilitate a safe return to work within the pandemic.
With Coronavirus still causing uncertainty for all, return to work cases should be addressed individually and be addressed with flexibility and understanding. Another guide to follow can be found here.
Phased return to work
A phased return to work may be reasonable for particular employees when returning to work. A phased return to work is where an employee can stagger how they return to work. This can be reduced hours in a day over the working week or working less days in the week for example three days a week instead of five. A phased return to work does not have a set time period as each case is unique however they usually last 4-6 weeks.
Phased returns can also relate to duties. For example, there may be some employees whose medication means that they must undertake lighter physical duties for a period of time.
The recommendation usually comes from an occupational health team or a GP but in some circumstances the employee themselves can request it.
The following options may be considered when looking at pay:
Return the employee to full pay once they commence their phased return;
Pay the employee for the hours they work, and ‘top-up’ the rest of the time with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP);
Pay the employee for the hours they work and ‘top-up’ the rest of the time with Occupational Sick Pay (OSP); and
Agree with the employee that they may use accrued holiday to top up their pay when they are not working.
There is no set protocol when it comes to pay on a phased return to work however, whatever is agreed between the employer and the employee, the employer must confirm the arrangement in writing to the employee.
Several laws are relevant when managing sick leave and return to work. These include the Equality Act, the Employment Rights Act and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. These should be addressed and implemented within your policies to ensure that you are adhering to the law.
And as always Wurkplace are always here to help you when you need!
Contact us by calling 0330 400 5490 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Currently practising all the aspects of Human Resources including employee rights, discrimination, how to manage grievances and disciplinaries.