What is Return to work?

Employers are often faced with situations where employees are absent from work.  Most absences are for short periods of time and are usually less than three days in duration.  Though policies vary between employers, shorter absences do not require a medical certificate to validate the absence.  For absences longer than this, medical certification is usually required by the employer and is also required by the Department of Social Protection, if claims are being made. 

Absence management refers to the entire process of what happens when an employee goes absent for whatever reason.  Typically, much of this is focused on the short term and does not deal with the any health issues that may have caused of absence.

Return to work in this context refers to the efforts made to support an employee in getting back to work following a period of absence.  It deals with health related absence in particular (though some of the approach can be applied to non-health related absence).

According to the ENWHP:

Sometimes absence through illness is unavoidable. In these circumstances it is important to minimise the impact any impairment or illness has on the business and the person. Disability management plays an important role in the health and safety framework. It is a proactive approach by employers to help injured or ill workers return to safe and productive work as soon as possible. A Disability Management Programme facilitates early intervention and keeps the worker engaged with the workplace.

Within the programme there will be individual return-to-work plans, tailored to help workers resume appropriate job activities.

Most individuals who have an injury or illness are able to return to some kind of work while they are still recovering, depending on the duties and responsibilities. A return to work may even contribute to recovery, reducing the risk of a long-term disability.

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