Tips For A Successful Return to Work After Extended Absence

Return to work things to manage

In this article, we will discuss how to plan to return to work after an absence, how employers can support employees during their transition back into the workplace, and tips on managing any stress or anxiety associated with the process.

Importance of managing sick leave and return to work

Managing sick leave and return to work is critical to ensuring the well-being and productivity of employees. When an employee is absent due to illness or injury, it can have significant consequences for both the employee and the employer.

A prolonged absence can impact the employee's mental and physical health and ability to perform their job effectively. For employers, it can result in reduced productivity, increased workload for other staff members, and increased costs associated with sick pay and temporary staff.

Help available for managing sick leave and return to work

Fortunately, help is available for ordering sick leave and returning to work. Organizations can turn to various resources to assist with managing employee absences, such as occupational health services, employee assistance programs, and HR software solutions.

These resources can help employers manage employee absences, identify the underlying causes of lack, and develop a plan for an employee's return to work.

Solutions for HR teams of all sizes

Managing sick leave and returning to work can be challenging for HR teams of all sizes. However, there are solutions available that can help streamline the process and ensure that employees are supported throughout their absence. HR software solutions, for example, can help HR teams to;

  • Manage employee absences
  • Automate the process of requesting sick leave
  • And provide real-time visibility into employee absence data.

Solutions for teams of all sizes

It's not just more prominent organizations that can benefit from solutions to manage sick leave and return to work. There are also solutions available that are tailored to the needs of smaller organizations.

These solutions are typically more affordable and easier to implement, making them an excellent option for smaller businesses that may not have the resources to enforce more complex solutions.

Return to work interviews

return to work interviews

Return-to-work interviews are essential to effectively managing sick leave and supporting employees as they transition back to work.

The employee's line manager typically conducts these interviews and consists of two parts: Part 1 is for the employee to complete, and part 2 is for the employer to meet. Here's what you need to know:

The importance of conducting return-to-work interviews

Return-to-work interviews are critical for several reasons. Firstly, they allow employees to discuss concerns about returning to work, such as their physical or mental health.

Secondly, they enable the employer to identify any underlying causes of absence and develop a plan to support the employee's return to work. Finally, they can help to prevent further absences by identifying any issues that may have contributed to the employee's lack in the first place.

Benefits of using a return to work form

A return-to-work form can help ensure that return-to-work interviews are consistent and thorough. The condition can include questions about the employee's health, any adjustments that may be required to their role, and any support they may need as they transition back to work. Employers can use a form to ensure that all relevant information is captured and the employee's return to work is well-managed.

Understanding people returning to work

It's essential to recognize that returning to work can be a difficult and stressful experience for some employees. They may have concerns about their ability to perform their job or may be anxious about interacting with their colleagues after an extended absence.

Employers should be sensitive to these concerns and provide appropriate support and resources to help employees transition back to work.

Conducting a return to work interview

Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment is essential when conducting a return-to-work interview. The interviewer should listen carefully to the employee's concerns and work with them to develop a plan for their return to work. The discussion should also include reviewing the employee's job description and any adjustments required to support their return to work.

Risks to employers of mishandling the return to work

Beating the return to work process can have significant consequences for employers. It can result in increased absences, reduced productivity, and even legal action if the employee feels that they have been mistreated. Therefore, handling the return to work process with care and sensitivity is essential.

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The need for assistance

Employers may need assistance when managing the return to work process. This could involve seeking advice from an occupational health professional or working with an external HR consultant to develop policies and procedures for managing employee absences.

Things to consider before starting

Before conducting a return-to-work interview, employers should consider several factors, such as the employee's medical condition, job role, and any adjustments that may be required. It's also essential to ensure that employees are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities during the return to work process.

Women returners

Women returning to work after a period of absence, such as maternity leave, may require additional support and resources. Employers should be sensitive to their needs and provide appropriate support, such as flexible working arrangements or further training.

Phased return to work

A phased return can effectively support employees as they transition back to work. This could involve gradually increasing their hours or responsibilities over some time. A phased return to work can help prevent further absences and ensure the employee is fully supported when returning to their role.

How to create a smooth return-to-work process.

Returning to work after a prolonged absence due to illness or injury can be a challenging experience for employees.

As an employer, it is crucial to create a smooth and effective return-to-work process that supports the employee and facilitates a successful transition back into the workplace. One essential aspect of this process is making reasonable adjustments.

Making reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments are changes to the work environment, working hours, or job responsibilities that enable employees to perform their duties effectively.

These adjustments are typically made to accommodate an employee's disability or medical condition. Some examples of reasonable adjustments include flexible working hours, provision of assistive technology, and adjustments to the work environment.

When an employee returns to work, discussing any reasonable adjustments that may need to be made to support them is essential.

It may involve discussing their condition and required support with the employee and their healthcare provider. These adjustments can help ensure that employee can perform their job effectively and reduce the risk of further illness or injury.

Designing a Return to work program

A return-to-work program is a structured plan that outlines the steps an employee will take to return to work. This program should support the employee's needs and ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace.

This may involve gradually increasing hours or responsibilities and any necessary adjustments, such as changing their workstation or providing assistive technology. The program should also include regular monitoring of the employee's progress to ensure they are comfortable and able to fulfill their duties effectively.

Be flexible

Employers should remain flexible and open to required adjustments when designing a return-to-work program. It is important to remember that every employee is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Therefore, it is essential to stay in close contact with the employee throughout the process and make any necessary changes to enable them to return to work successfully.

By taking these steps, employers can help ensure that the return-to-work process goes as smoothly as possible and their employees are supported throughout the transition.

Ultimately, this will help create a supportive, inclusive environment that facilitates productivity and well-being.


Effective communication is critical to ensuring a successful return-to-work process. Employers should ensure their employees are fully aware of the expectations of returning to work. This should include any adjustments made, new working arrangements or additional training.

By keeping employees informed and ensuring they understand their roles and responsibilities upon returning to work, employers can help ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace.

Also, employers must provide ongoing support and monitor progress throughout the process to ensure issues are addressed quickly and effectively.

This can be done through regular check-ins with the employee or by offering additional training or support if needed.

By communicating openly and providing ongoing support, employers can help create an environment that enables employees to return to work feeling supported and equipped to perform their duties effectively.

Types of roles to offer

When considering returning an employee to work, employers should think about the type of roles they can offer. It is essential to consider the specific needs and abilities of each employee and identify parts that are suitable for them.

This may involve adapting existing roles or creating new positions tailored to their skills and abilities. Employers may also be able to offer part-time or flexible working patterns if it is appropriate for the employee.

By offering suitable roles that enable employees to make a meaningful contribution, employers can help ensure their return-to-work process is successful and productive.

Stay in touch during the period of absence.

There is a crucial time to stay in touch with your colleagues. Ensure you keep communication lines open and establish a clear plan for when and how you will reach out to each other. This could include regular video calls, emails, or text messages.

Keeping up this communication will help strengthen relationships and build trust among colleagues, even during separation. It's also important to be open and honest about your feelings. This can help provide everyone with the support needed during this challenging time.

If possible, try to make the process fun by finding ways to socialize with your colleagues or play virtual games together. Ultimately, staying in touch will help ensure a smooth transition back into regular work when possible.

External mental health support

Access to external mental health support can be invaluable in the return-to-work process. If an employee is struggling with their mental health, employers should consider referring them to a professional for additional help and guidance.

This could include accessing employee assistance programs, utilizing online self-help resources, or attending counseling sessions. By providing employees with access to external mental health support, employers can ensure they can cope with the challenges of returning to work and develop strategies for success.

By taking these steps, employers can help facilitate a successful return-to-work process and provide their employees with the support they need. This will help create an environment that is conducive to productivity and well-being.

What if the employee is unable to return to work?

employee unable to return to workSuppose an employee cannot return to work due to a medical condition or disability. In that case, the employer should engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if any reasonable accommodations can be made to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of their job.

The interactive process involves an open dialogue between the employer and employee to identify the employee's limitations and potential accommodations that could be made to enable the employee to perform their job duties.

The employer should work with the employee to identify reasonable accommodations that are effective and do not cause undue hardship to the employer.

If, after the interactive process, it is determined that there are no reasonable accommodations that would enable the employee to perform the essential functions of their job, the employer may need to explore other options, such as reassignment to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified or offering leave as an accommodation.


Returning to work after a period of absence can be challenging for employers and employees. Employers must be aware of their legal obligations, provide reasonable accommodations to enable employees to do their job and engage in an interactive process with employees to understand their needs and create a successful return-to-work plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If the employee requires additional training, the employer should provide the necessary training to ensure they can perform their job duties. This could include providing on-the-job training or specific skills training. The employer should also consider providing additional support, such as mentoring and coaching, to help the employee adjust to their new role.

  • When returning to work after an absence, employers and employees should know their rights and responsibilities under applicable laws. For example, unavoidable employee absences may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or state disability laws.

    Additionally, employers should be aware of any potential safety and health risks associated with the employee's return to work and consider any necessary accommodations or modifications to the job duties that may be needed. Finally, employers need to interact with employees to discuss their needs and develop a plan for a successful transition back into the workplace.

Topic: Procedures
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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