Helping staff return to work

Woman walking with suitcaseBringing an employee with disability back into your team can be a rewarding experience. It can also be very good for business. It does, however, require some simple planning by both you and the employee.

Step 1: Meet with your employee

Your employee is the best source of information about his or her abilities and limitations resulting from disability. You should meet with your employee to discuss these abilities and limitations. Ask your employee if his or her doctor has provided an approved date to return to work. Discuss whether or not your employee is required to ease back into work on reduced days or hours or on restricted duties.

Step 2: Review the essential tasks of the job

Review the tasks that must be completed to get the job done. This information can usually be found in your employee’s job description. Review the job description with your employee. Check if your employee is able to complete the essential tasks. Discuss if there are any workplace changes that can be made to help your employee do the job.

Step 3: Make workplace changes or adjustments

If changes are required to the workplace, including essential tools, make these changes before your employee returns to work. These changes may include:

  • adjustable desks and chairs
  • adjustable counters and worktops
  • larger monitor screens
  • modified keyboards 
  • telephone adaptations including headsets
  • task rotation within your employee’s duty list to accommodate any new tolerances
  • changes to the organisation of standard breaks
  • the introduction of timetables and checklists.

Step 4: Agree on a ‘Return to Work’ plan

A ‘Return to Work’ plan may be prepared by your organisation or a rehabilitation professional. Such a plan could include:

  • your employee’s job title
  • a summary of your employee’s duties
  • starting and finishing times
  • break times
  • any specific restrictions or recommendations (listed on your employee’s medical certificate)
  • the supervisors or managers responsible for monitoring your employee’s return to work
  • a time schedule for increasing your employee’s workload (if a gradual return to work is recommended).

Clearly explain the plan to your employee and have him or her sign the plan to show that he or she agrees to it and understands the obligations within the plan.

Step 5: Consider rebuilding skills with training

Some employees may require retraining or refresher courses on their existing jobs skills. Other employees may need to return to a job with modified work tasks. Training may allow these employees to take on new tasks and demonstrate flexibility in the workplace.

Step 6: Consider a mentoring or buddy program

Mentoring or buddy programs can help your employee in his or her return to work. These programs focus on building supportive relationships between workmates.

Step 7: Ensure other team members are understanding

Remember: If an employee discloses a disability, you are required to keep all information about the disability confidential. In order to share information about an employee’s disability, you must get written consent from the employee. 

A successful return to work requires clear and appropriate communication about workplace changes with all team members. This avoids any misunderstandings. Disability awareness training may also assist your management and staff.

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