Supporting an employee in returning to work after sickness due to mental health
To mark Mental Health Awareness week the Irish News is running a series of articles on the subject. Here Managing Director of Health Assured David Price explains how an employer can support an employee in their return to work after sickness due to mental ill health
The most beneficial way of supporting an employee back into work after a long period of sickness is to firstly set up a return to work meeting with the individual. This should be arranged prior to them re-commencing on their first shift.
This meeting will give you the opportunity to assess how the employee is at the moment, any medications or health and safety concerns that as an employer you need to be aware of and support they may need on returning to work can be discussed during this meeting.
This meeting will ensure any support and adjustments are put in place prior to the first day so that the individual can feel supported in full when commencing their first shift. Any risk assessments that might be required to be carried out can be done so at this meeting.
It will help you as an employer ensure that you are not giving your employee too much too soon as anything plans to return will therefore be documented.
One of the possible outcomes of this meeting is the potential to assess whether an Occupational Health Assessment may be of benefit. These are independent and impartial detailed fitness to work assessments which will go into further detail regarding the job description and the employee’s current capabilities given the medical condition.
The report will make recommendations regarding possible adjustments in the work place and if these are advisable and reasonable to implement, for example, more rest breaks may be appropriate, altered hours to accommodate medication side effects etc.
Accessing and considering what you can do to support the employee to allow them to remain in the role will also ensure that if your employee may be considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 that you are also meeting your obligation from a duty of care perspective to consider making reasonable adjustments within the work place.
What an occupational health assessment can also do is consider the employee’s current capabilities and recommend a phased return to work; this is a gradual return to contracted hours over an agreed period of time. It allows the employee to adjust to the return more appropriately and has beneficial results in terms of preventing the employee going off sick again.
Sometimes the employee’s own GP/treating specialist will recommend a phased return to work and therefore occupational health can assess the employee to determine exactly what is recommended within the realms of the job role. This should also be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the employee is managing with the phased increase in hours.
Ensuring all of the above is implemented will reduce the risks of placing too many demands on an employee recovering from a period of illness.