Returning to Work

Return to Work (RTW) Discussion

Absence is most effectively managed when monitored from day one, with appropriate support not only provided to the employee at an early stage but upon a return to work.  Managers must conduct a return to work meeting with an employee after every absence. A toolkit on conducting a return to work discussion is available here and includes the RTW form that should be completed by the manager as a record of the discussion and and agreement on next steps including support to be provided (if any).

What to Expect at a Return to Work Discussion

Return to work discussions are used to welcome the employee back to the workplace, provide an opportunity to discuss the cause of the absence, ensure the employee is fit to return and identify and address any problem that may be causing or contributing to the absence. If there are concerns about the employee’s level of attendance this must also be discussed at the return to work meeting and further appropriate action taken if required

A return to work discussion must be conducted after each period of sickness absence for every employee, every time (irrespective of the reason for sickness absence).  It must take place on the first day that the employee returns from being off sick, or as near as possible to that date.

The discussion will also provide the employee with an opportunity to discuss any underlying problems which may or may not be causing absence that could be resolved by additional support.

Phased Return to Work

The purpose of a phased return is to allow an employee who has been absent from work due to a physical or mental health condition time to build up their physical and/or mental capacity to return to their normal working hours. There is no automatic entitlement to a phased return.     

Employees must return to work for at least 20% of their normal contractual hours and gradually increase their hours and days to their normal hours over the agreed number of weeks.

A phased return to work will generally only be considered for employees who have been absent from work for an extended period of time unless the employee has a disability and therefore phased returns may be considered for shorter absences (providing the phased return is no longer than the absence itself). Normally the requirement for a phased return will be based on medical advice from occupational health, however each case will be considered on its own merits.

Phased returns will be for a maximum of 4 weeks unless it has been recommended by an appropriate health professional e.g. occupational health, GP that longer is required (up to a maximum of 6 weeks). A requirement to go beyond 6 weeks would indicate the employee is not fit enough to return to work and a further referral to OH may be required.

If employee requests a phased return beyond 4 weeks and it has not already been agreed that longer will be needed (e.g. occupational health recommendation) the manager must discuss this with ER to determine if there is justification for the employee to have additional weeks (up to maximum of 2).

At the end of a phased return if the employee has not been able to return to normal hours/duties a temporary reduction in contractual hours and pay may be considered taking the needs of the service into account. This should be discussed fully with the employee and advise sought from ER. 

Reasonable Adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010, public sector organisations have to make changes in their approach or provision to ensure that services are accessible to disabled people as well as everybody else. Reasonable adjustments can mean alterations to buildings by providing lifts, wide doors, ramps and tactile signage, but may also mean changes to policies, procedures and staff training to ensure that services work equally well for people with learning disabilities.

What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. And it will depend on an assessment of factors including:

  • Is the adjustment practical to make?
  • Does the employer have the resources to pay for it?
  • Will the adjustment be effective in overcoming or reducing the disadvantage in the workplace?
  • Will the adjustment have an adverse impact on the health & safety of others?

The council has developed a reasonable adjustment protocol to assist disabled employees and their line managers negotiate and agree what adjustments are required to enable a disabled employee to do their job.  Once agreed a record of the agreement will be kept in the employees HR file.

Reasonable Adjustment Protocol
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Date modified: 31-10-2019
Updated on 20th June 2021

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