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Phased Return to Work

In cases of long-term sickness absence Occupational Health may recommend the employee returns to work on a phased basis. The purpose of a phased return to work is to rehabilitate the employee to their full duties and gradually build back up to undertaking their normal working hours. 

The details of the phased return as recommended by OH will be agreed between the line manager and employee with consideration given to the needs of the service. A phased return will be for a maximum period of four weeks and may take a variety of forms, including:

  • Working only on certain days of the week
  • Working a reduced number of hours
  • Undertaking restricted duties for a period of time 

Following a period of long term sickness absence where the Occupational Health Advisor has not recommended a phased return and the Line Manager has some concerns then the matter should be re-referred to Occupational Health in order to ensure that no adverse affect on the health of the employee is anticipated. 

Medical certificates will not be required for the phased return to work period as the employee will no longer be on sick leave and sick pay will not apply.

The Line Manager should review the employee’s progress on a weekly basis and should they recognise that the employee is unlikely to be able to resume their normal working hours and duties before the four week period expires then a further referral to Occupational Health will be required in order to ascertain the individual’s fitness for work.

The employee will be paid in full up to a maximum of four weeks during a phased return to work period. If a phased return is agreed for a period longer than four weeks, the additional period will need to be managed by using, for example, annual leave/flexi/unpaid leave/temporary reduction in hours etc. 

An employee may need adjustments to be made upon their return to work. Such adjustments can include the following:

  • Agreed flexible working hours
  • Minor adjustments to duties
  • A reduction in working hours
  • Adjustment to the way work is organised
  • Workstation adjustment - the provision of new or adapted equipment

It is the responsibility of the Line Manager to ensure that all reasonable adjustments have been implemented and effectiveness assessed before proceeding through further stages of the sickness absence policy.

The Equalities Act 2010 places a clear legal obligation on employers to make reasonable adjustments to the working conditions/duties of disabled staff. 

If the implementation of ‘reasonable adjustments’ will not enable an employee to return to their current position the Line Manager will work with HR and the employee to consider a suitable alternative vacancy. This is a reasonable adjustment under the Equalities Act. 

Where Occupational Health recommends redeployment the employee will be placed on the redeployment register for an initial period of 4 weeks. The employee will be supported appropriately to look for vacancies which match their skills, knowledge, experience and competencies.

If suitable alternative employment is not found within the 4 week period the Line Manager and HR advisor will meet with the individual to give notice of termination on the grounds of ill health capability. The employee will remain on the redeployment register for their full notice period.

We have a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure employee health and safety. This means that it may be necessary to medically suspend an employee from work pending medical assessment if there may be particular risk to health. The decision will be based on a risk assessment.  If an employee is suspended on medical grounds they will be entitled to full pay. The suspension should be reviewed upon receipt of the assessment from Occupational Health. However, if the employee is offered other suitable work and do not accept it they may lose the right to be paid.

Page updated: 09/09/2021 10:52:21