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Long-term absence is usually defined as lasting at least four weeks and can be challenging to manage as the longer someone is off sick, the harder it can be for them to return. Consequently, organisations need to keep in touch with absent employees in a sensitive way and have a formal return-to-work strategy for those returning after prolonged absence. Awareness of potential disability discrimination issues is also crucial, and organisations should have a disability leave policy that treats absence linked to someone’s disability as distinct from sickness absence. 
The role of the line manager is vital in managing long-term absence, but other interventions are also important. These include: 
return-to-work interviews that are supportive and discuss ongoing adjustments where needed 
occupational health involvement and proactive measures to support staff health and well-being 
a supportive case management approach, for example involving HR, occupational health services and the individual’s line manager 
risk assessment to help return to work after long-term absence 
changes to work patterns or environment, including flexible working 
return-to-work interviews. 
There are five typical elements in the recovery and return-to-work process: 
keeping in contact with unwell employees, in a sensistive manner, to help prevent them feeling isolated 
planning and implementing workplace adjustments where necessary, in collaboration with the individual 
accessing professional advice and treatment 
planning and co-ordinating a return-to-work plan 
regular evaluation with the employee about how they are adjusting to being back at work. 
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Tagged as: Absence Management
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