Employees are more likely to return to work safely and productively following long-term sickness absence if they are well supported during their absence and on their return. 

Everyone has a role to play in the return-to-work journey: returning individuals need to prioritise self-care and self-management to sustain their health and work; colleagues can provide valuable practical and emotional support; managers can facilitate any work adjustments and support that returning workers need to work effectively; while organisations can help to accommodate individual needs through compassionate and flexible absence management policies and rehabilitation approaches. 

The main causes of long-term absence have remained fairly consistent over the last few decades. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had lasting impact on ways of working, including absence. Although the impact was different depending on individual circumstances, the pandemic generally increased health and wellbeing concerns amongst organisations and individuals alike. This emphasises the need to offer adequate support and ensure that those who need work adjustments or job modifications (including reduced hours or flexible work) are able to access them to facilitate a return to work. 

  This guide, published in partnership with Bupa, provides information on effectively managing an employee’s return to work after long-term absence.  

What is long-term absence?

Why we need to address long-term sickness absence

Shared responsibility for supporting returning employees

Guiding principles to support the return-to-work journey

Policies and processes

Useful resources

Bupa viewpoint

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