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What about phased returns to work?

Returning to work after a period of illness with M.E. requires a much more gradual approach than most other phased returns. It is important that work and travel to/from work is incorporated when considering what your employee is capable of. A return to previous hours within eight weeks is unlikely – even eight months may be ambitious for some people. A gradual but sustainable return is recommended.

It is a good idea to have a structured plan so that both you and your employee understand and agree the process. However, it is also important to expect some flexibility in these plans, making allowances for setbacks or relapses. Short but manageable regular periods of work are most productive. If repeated attempts at a phased return to work fail, consider whether your expectations or those of the worker or other colleagues are too high.

NHS Plus occupational health guidelines say that in developing a return to work plan, the following should be considered:

  • building up work, or work related skills, at home at first
  • starting with shortened hours and gradually building them up
  • starting with a reduced workload and gradually increasing it
  • ensuring that regular breaks are taken
  • ensuring that the individual has a regular review with an occupational health professional.

Helpful adjustments or periods of flexible working (possibly from home) can also contribute to a smooth transition.

Whatever the terms of your employee’s return to work, make it clear what payment arrangements will apply and for how long.