Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies

Continue

Navigation

Returning to work after sickness absence

Whether you’re returning to work after surgery or have an ongoing or long-term health condition, getting back to work can be a daunting prospect. You may feel worried and anxious about whether you’ll be well enough to do your job. Or you might worry what your employer might say or think.

To help you get back on your feet and back into your work routine, there are three key people who can help you. These are your doctor, your employer and, most importantly, you.

Details

  • Your doctor Your doctor

    Your communication with your employer and HR department is really important when you’re off work because of a health problem. In addition, your doctor can help you communicate how fit you are for work to your employer and suggest some ways they can help you. This is done through a ‘fit note’. It’s a note from your doctor that offers your employer advice and recommendations about how your health may affect your abilities at work.

    You and your doctor will talk through sections of the note, looking at possible changes your employer could make that would benefit you. These may include the following.

    • Coming back to work gradually. This means a phased approach to increasing your work tasks and amount of hours you work.
    • Altering the times you work. This could be the amount of hours you work or the times of day you work.
    • Changing the tasks you do at work. It may be necessary to change some of your duties, either temporarily or permanently.

    Ask your doctor to be clear on the note about what the effects of your health condition are, rather than just describing it. There’s a comments box where your doctor can write down some practical suggestions. They might include things about your mobility or whether you need to attend any medical appointments during work hours.

    Remember, your doctor will be able to give guidance and general advice rather than specific solutions. It’s up to you and your employer to discuss this and agree a plan.

    If you’re not sure about your health condition, our questions to ask your doctor might help.

  • Your employer Your employer

    It’s good to stay in touch with your employer while you’re off so that you’re ready to return when the time comes. He or she is very likely to want to help you in every way they can to support your return. Remember, they value your skills and recognise that work is an important part of your wellbeing. Discuss your doctor’s advice from the fit note with them. Where they can, your employer will try to adapt your work based on your doctor’s advice to reach a plan that you’re happy with.

    There may be various changes your employer could make that would help you such as:

    • changing location or equipment
    • receiving some training or support
    • working from home
    • setting you up with a mentor or a buddy
    • working by yourself or in a team

    Involving an occupational health specialist might be an option. Your doctor may recommend this or your employer may already want to contact them for advice. This might happen if your situation is more complicated. Occupational Health professionals can offer expert and impartial advice to help assist in your return to work.

    Putting a plan into writing is a great way to set clear expectations for both you and your employer. The plan may include an end goal or multiple goals, time frames and review dates. He or she may need to carry out a risk assessment. This is to simply make sure your work is in line with the recommendation in your fit note.

    If your employer has some queries or questions, try to answer them as best you can. Remember, they have a responsibility to look after you at work and so must understand your needs and how they can accommodate them.

  • You You

    And now to the most important part. You. Re-entering the work place after time off can be nerve wracking. But taking charge of your situation and being proactive can really help ease any worries.

    Keep in touch. While you’re off work, keep in contact with your employer, and some of your colleagues if you want to. Your employer will be proactive in being in contact with you too. This isn’t to pressure you into coming back to work before you’re ready, but to support and help you. Regular contact can help you to feel ‘in the loop’ and ease any anxiety you might have when you do go back to work.

    Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. You may not be able to go straight back to doing what you did before you were ill. Don’t be hard on yourself. People understand that it isn’t going to be easy. Take things steady and recognise what you’re achieving and focus on the positives.

    You can go back to work any time you feel ready. The advice from your doctor is just that: advice. You can go back to work at any point that you feel well enough to do so. The earlier you feel up to it, the better.

    If you don’t feel supported or things aren’t going to plan, don’t stay silent about it. There are organisations that can offer advice such as your trade union, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and occupational health services. See our Resources for details.

  • Help your team stay healthy

    With a selection of health and wellbeing solutions to suit a variety of needs and budgets, our business cover is designed with your people in mind.

  • How work benefits your life How work benefits your life

    • Work is a key part of daily life. It’s important to your sense of identity, social relationships and status, meeting a variety of your emotional needs.
    • Having long amounts of time off increases your risk of poor general health and mental wellbeing.
    • The sooner you get back to work, the better you’re likely to feel.
    • Work can be seen as part of your therapy and rehabilitation.
    • It’s a myth that you need to be a 100 percent fit to go to work. In fact, work can help speed up your recovery and do wonders for your wellbeing.
  • Resources Resources

    Further information

    Sources

    • Advising patients about work: an evidence-based approach for General Practitioners and other healthcare professionals. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, published 2007
    • The fit note: a guide for patients and employees. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, published March 2013
    • Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, published March 2013
    • Element 5: agreeing and reviewing a return to work plan. Health and Safety Executive. www.hse.gov.uk, accessed 2 February 2014
    • Keeping in contact. Health and Safety Executive. www.hse.gov.uk, accessed 7 February 2014
    • Getting the most out of the fit note: GP guidance. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, published January 2014
    • Working together to prevent sickness absence becoming job loss. Health and Safety Executive. www.hse.gov.uk, published 2004
    • Statement of fitness for work – a guide for occupational health professionals. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, published March 2010
  • Has our information helped you? Tell us what you think about this page

    We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
    Ask us a question
  • Related information Related information

  • Author information Author information

    Produced by Natalie Heaton, Bupa Health Information Team, February 2014.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
    Ask us a question

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.

  • Information Standard

    We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
    Information standard logo
  • HONcode

    This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

    This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

What our readers say about us

But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.

Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.

It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.

Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.

Meet the team

Image of Andrew Byron

Andrew Byron
Head of health content and clinical engagement




  • Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor – UK Customer
  • Nick Ridgman – Lead Editor – UK Health and Care Services
  • Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor – User Experience
  • Pippa Coulter – Specialist Editor – Content Library
  • Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor – Insights
  • Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor – Quality
  • Michelle Harrison – Editorial Assistant

Our core principles

All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.

An image showing or editorial principals

                  Click to open full-size image

The ‘3Rs’ encompass everything we believe good health information should be. From tweets to in-depth reports, videos to quizzes, every piece of content we produce has these as its foundation.

Readable

In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.

Reliable

We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.

Relevant

We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.

Our accreditation

Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.

  • The Information Standard certification scheme

    You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.

    It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.

    Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.

  • British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

    We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.

Contact us

If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: healthinfo@bupa.com. Or you can write to us:

Health Content Team
Bupa House
15-19 Bloomsbury Way
London
WC1A 2BA

Find out more Close

Legal disclaimer

This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.

For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the 'About our health information' section.

ˆ We may record or monitor our calls.