Return to work following stress, anxiety and depression: Six Steps to a Successful Return
One Page Quick View: The points in bold are legal requirements. All other points have been found to significantly increase the likelihood of a successful return.
Dealing with initial absence
- Tell your employer/ manager you will be absent – telling people you are struggling with your mental ill-health can be difficult. Here is an example template letter/email for you to edit.
- Agree how you will communicate during your absence. Having a conversation about your absence can be difficult when you are experiencing mental ill-health, but it is a vital step towards recovery
Focus on getting better – see the employee guide for examples of how.
- Contact the employee – Send them a note/text/flowers, something meaningful to them.
- Recognise the need for recuperation during absence to the employee – give them permission to do what they need to get better.
- Reinforce the benefits of supporting returning to work.
- Consult your absence policy.
- Share the employee guide.
Record the employee’s absence.
Developing knowledge and skill
- Structure your day so that you are doing things to support your health and so that you do not feel lost.
- Take active steps to identify your health needs and which activities work for you e.g. mindfulness, seeing friends, eating better.
- Make use of support groups and support services.
Find further information and support in the employee guide.
- Re-distribute the employee’s work, if possible.
- Consider the impact of the absence on the rest of the team – redistribute work carefully.
- If the absence is work-related, consider whether others may be under undue pressure. You could use the Management Standards approach to manage stress.
- Consider manager behaviours that lead to a successful return to work.
- Put yourself in your employee’s shoes.
- Check you are prepared to have a sensitive conversation.
(Day 7 onwards)
Maintaining communication throughout absence
- Obtain a Fit Note from the GP for any absence over 7 consecutive days. You must do this to get Statutory Sick Pay.
- Send the Fit Note to your employer.
- Keep work informed of your work intentions. See some examples of how to do this.
- Meet up with a trusted colleague if you consider it would be helpful and you feel it may be possible, it can help to make returning to work feel less daunting.
- Record the employee’s absence.
- Consider carefully the content of the Fit Note and ensure that it is safely filed.
- Maintain communication via agreed strategy (email, phone; line manager or colleague). See some examples of how to do this.
- Send employee a reminder of your sickness absence policy, including ability to return to work with a combination of SSP and salary.
Options available to employers/managers:
- Refer employee to Occupational Health or Human Resource professional – internal or external depending on resources. See here or further information.
- Refer to Fit for Work services (after 4 weeks absence).
Contact GP with employee’s consent.
(Day 7 onwards)
Preparing for return to work
- Consider your health: Identifying your signs symptoms and triggers
- Consider your role: What can you do now to see if you are ready to return to work? What might you need support with? What are the priorities for returning to work?
- Consider asking a friend, family member or colleague to help you think through your options.
Having a Return to Work conversation
- Meet with your manager/ employer to discuss your return to work needs. Having a conversation about work and health can sometimes be difficult. See guide with prompts.
Agree a plan of action and a review period.
- Meet with the employee to discuss return to work needs. Consider possible interim changes to role. Having a conversation about work and health can sometimes be difficult. See guide with prompts.
- Agree a plan of action and a review period.
If the absence was work-related, consider using the Management Standards approach to see how these issues have affected the team/organisation.
Keeping healthy and productive at work
- Regular check-ins and structured review in line with agreed plan.
- Be aware of stress triggers to prevent relapse.
Agree to have ‘mental health days’ absence if possible.
- Regular check-ins to ask the employee how they are.
- Review work and health in line with agreed plan.
Watch out for possible relapse – trigger signs.