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Sickness Absence Rehabilitation and Phased Return to Work Policy


The University wishes to create and support a healthy and efficient working environment, not only through its obligations to comply with Health and Safety legislation but also through a caring and rehabilitative approach towards the management of sickness absence.  To this end the University seeks to be supportive and flexible in assisting staff if they have been unable to work due to illness and in supporting their rehabilitation back to work.  

Evidence shows that the longer a member of staff is away from the workplace the harder it becomes for them to return. When a member of staff has had a period of long term sickness, i.e. more than three months, then a successful return to work is more likely if an appropriate return to work plan is put in place. Even when the member of staff believes that they need no support, it is advisable that managers still involve Occupational Health and Human Resources as their professional expertise can often anticipate issues that neither the member of staff or manager are aware of and they can suggest particular support that would be appropriate.

Phased Return to Work

The purpose of a phased return to work is to rehabilitate members of staff, who have been absent as a result of sickness for 3 months or more (individual cases under 3 months may be considered on a case by case basis), back to their full duties within an agreed timescale. 

A phased return to work programme will not exceed four weeks, bearing in mind the need for a degree of flexibility since the member of staff’s progress might be difficult to predetermine or may vary depending on the particular circumstances of the case. The phased return will be time-limited with attendance and targets agreed for each week of the phased return period.

During the phased return programme, the sickness absence will cease and the member of staff will be placed back on the payroll on the same full contractual conditions as before the absence. 

Rehabilitation Process – General arrangements

To ensure a successful outcome, all elements of an agreed phased return to work programme require prior assessment and appropriate planning.  To assist this, the following process will normally apply:

  • Medical Advice

Prior to an anticipated return, a report from the Occupational Health Adviser will be requested by Human Resources.  The report will outline recommendations, based on a discussion with the member of staff and the School/Unit, as to potential measures the School/Unit could adopt to support rehabilitation into the workplace.

The line manager, along with Human Resources, will arrange to meet with the member of staff to discuss the proposals and agree the return to work programme.

  • Return to Work Programme

The agreed arrangements will be detailed in a Work Plan (Appendix 1) and will include:

  • the start and end date of the phased return to work programme
  • agreed attendance pattern (hours of work should incrementally increase over the phased return period)
  • the duties being undertaken
  • any additional support required
  • setting weekly review dates to monitor progress
  • the date for a formal review of the return to work arrangements

The member of staff must receive confirmation from their GP that they are fit to return to work under the proposed planAny additional recommendations or suggested variations to the proposed plan indicated by the GP will be considered.  The final decision on the terms of the proposed return to work programme will be taken by the line manager/Head of School/Unit in consultation with HR and Occupational Health (if applicable)  in light of the recommendations and the business needs of the School/Unit.   If the suggested adjustments are not feasible the employee may be expected to remain on sickness absence.

  • First day back

The member of staff and line manager will have a Return to Work discussion.  This is an opportunity for both parties to bring themselves up to date on changes to a condition/changes that have taken place within the School/Unit.

Issues during the phased return to work programme

If issues are experienced during the phased return to work programme, a review meeting between Human Resources, the Line Manager and the member of staff may be held to assess what action may be appropriate to address the issues.

End of phased return programme

If it is unlikely that the member of staff will be able to resume full duties after the agreed phased return period, further advice should be sought from their GP.  This may result in a further time-limited extension of the phased return.  Where this is the case the member of staff will be given the option of using annual leave to make up the lost hours or their pay being adjusted according to the hours worked, or agreeing the need for the member of staff to resume sick leave and to re-submit medical certificates.

In the event that a member of staff is not fit to resume full duties at the end of the phased programme, the University may consider a temporary/permanent adjustment to the role.  Measures that will be considered include the following:

  • Temporary or permanent contractual change of post within the same School/Unit, if appropriate.
  • Redeployment within the University either on the same, different or on reduced hours.
  • Reasonable training or rehabilitation.
  • Re-organisation of the duties. (Any impact on the role or grade would be discussed with the individual and if a lower graded post was required remuneration would be adjusted accordingly.)

Where none of these measures are appropriate, consideration will be given to:

  • Invoking the capability procedure.
  • Early retirement, if this is available under the terms of the employees’ pension scheme.
  • A mutual termination of the contract.

Sickness Absence - Rehabilitation and Phased Return to Work Plan (Word, 16 KB)

If you would like any further information or have any queries please contact Human Resources.

Human Resources

August 2013