Return-to-work plan & Vocational Rehabilitation after sick leave
A Return-to-Work Plan & Vocational Rehabilitation is usually required when an individual has not worked for a few weeks. They may have been attended treatment and rehabilitation sessions, from the NHS services or privately.
Rehabilitation has many different definitions, but following injury or illness it is a process of active change arriving at an improvement in functional ability and greater participation in society.
In this context, it is usually a process whereby an individual engages in an active partnership with health professionals to achieve desired goals.
Vocational Rehabilitation (as defined by BSRM)
Vocational Rehabilitation aims to maximize the ability of an individual to return to meaningful employment. Best rehabilitation practice:
• improves work and activity tolerance
• avoids illness behaviour
• eases deconditioning
• prevents chronicity
• reduces pain and the effects of illness or disability
Effective rehabilitation of work related illness/injury enables employees to return to work more quickly. For maximum effect, medical, social and vocational rehabilitation should occur concurrently rather than
The adverse effects of unemployment on physical disability and mental health are well known. The ability of individuals to cope with these effects varies considerably with significant numbers of unemployed people moving on to sickness and disability benefits. Within this group obstacles to reemployment can develop quickly eg
• deterioration in physical and mental health
• adaptation to life on benefits
• financial gain from returning to work feels unacceptably small
• satisfaction with the life style out of work which allows pursuit of other interests
Successfully rehabilitated individuals feel confident about their work abilities and general well being.
Physical and biomechanical approaches should be complemented with organisational management policy and psychosocial factors such as participation, job discretion and social interaction.
Attention to risk factors and workstation design require an Ergonomic Assessment.
Early communication helps
This medical/rehabilitation treating team should be in early contact with employers, occupational health services and / or the Employment Service early to facilitate a return to work at an appropriate time and with appropriate environmental or role modifications.
So best practice considers the employment requirements of individuals as well as their health and social rehabilitation needs. Occupational Therapists have an important role to play in this. Skilled in activity analysis, they can assist employers in devising reasonable adjustments to work tasks.
A Return To Work plan can ease an employee back into the workplace safely.
We can design vocational rehabilitation and return to work programmes to suit your company, to re-introduce and develop tolerance to work tasks, thus aiding a speedy return to the workplace.
How a Return To Work Plan Works
- The advice may include designing a programme of work tasks for an employee, to strengthen and increase stamina and to help them get back into the work routine.
- The return-to-work schedule of hours are negotiated. Advice is given on how to gradually increase the working hours over several weeks.
- The therapist can attend meetings to ensure a smooth process of return-to-work and aid communication between all involved parties, if required.
Ongoing Vocational Rehabilitation
- Following return-to-work, a therapist can provide regular monitoring of the employee in the workplace, and support of both the employee and employer through the process.
- Speeds up the return-to-work process and reduces costs.
- Improves communication and co-ordination of approach.
- Monitors, supports and guides the return-to-work process.
- Identifies, tackles and solves barriers in the return-to-work process.
- Achieve ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010
- This input is often required when an individual worker has been on longer-term sick leave (more than 2 weeks),. It can follow on from a Functional Capacity Evaluation or Ergonomic Assessment.