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.  

CIPD member content

This content is only available for CIPD members

More on this topic

Reports
HR practices in Ireland

The annual HR practices in Ireland survey helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the profession

CIPD Viewpoint
Employee health and wellbeing

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on health and wellbeing at work, including recommendations for employers

Factsheets
Absence management and measurement

Learn how to manage short- and long-term absence in an organisation

Guides
Supporting employees with long-term health conditions

Practical advice and guiding principles for effective support

For Members

Latest guides

Guides
People manager guide: Supporting employee resilience

Practical guidance on helping employees adapt and thrive when faced with workplace stress

For Members
Guides
Resilience: Guide for people professionals to support employees

Advice and tips on how HR professionals can support organisational and individual resilience

For Members
Guides
Internships that work: Guide for employers

Guidance for employers on starting or improving an internship programme, including a checklist and model agreement

For Members
Guides
Carer-friendly workplaces: Guide for people professionals

Practical guidance to help employers create a carer-friendly workplace

All guides