Dos and Don’ts

Return to work following stress, anxiety and depression: Six Steps to a Successful Return

Examples of what to say and do, and what not to say and do.

Steps

Employee

Employer/manager

Step 1: Dealing with initial absence

Employee

Do say

“Although it is daunting, it is important I disclose my mental ill-health to my employers, otherwise they are unable to support me through this time.”

Don’t say

“My employer doesn’t need to know the real reason I am off, I don’t want to be judged for taking time off due to mental ill-health.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“My employee needs to take the time to get better and we can help support them through their absence and on their return to work.”

Don’t say

“I’m not going to contact my employee and see how they are- they’ve left me lots of work because of their absence!”

Step 2: Developing knowledge and skills

Employee

Do say

“I need to take steps to build up my coping skills and focus on my mental health.”

Don’t say

“I feel guilty about being off work, maybe I should just go back even though I don’t feel very well.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“I need to think about this from my employee’s point of view and think about how I can help them return to work when the time is right.”

Don’t say

“I know you are off at the moment but I really need to know when you’re going to be back-we’ve got a deadline coming up and I need you at work.”

Step 3: Maintaining communication throughout absence

Employee

Do say

“I need to keep in contact with my employers and inform them of my work intentions.”

Don’t say

“I already contacted my employer when I was first on absence- I don’t need to talk to them anymore.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“I will maintain communication as we agreed, contact their GP with their consent and keep a log of their absence.”

Don’t say

“I know we agreed to speak over the telephone once a week but a few emails won’t hurt.”

Step 4: Preparing for Return to Work

Employee

Do say

“I should note down my signs/symptoms and think about what areas I may need support in at work.”

Don’t say

“I don’t want to think about work until my first day back.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“When planning for their return to work, I need to prioritise the work and realise that they may need some work adjustments.”

Don’t say

“Great, my employee is coming back to work- I have so much back log for them to sort out.”

Step 5: Having a Return to Work conversation

Employee

Do say

“I should discuss my return to work needs and ask for any reasonable adjustments that I think will help my return.”

Don’t say

“I don’t want my employer to think I’m incompetent- I won’t ask them for any reasonable adjustments.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“We need to discuss the business needs as well as my employee’s needs, agree a plan of action and a review period”

Don’t say

“Now that my employee is better they can return to full time hours and full responsibilities straight away.”

Step 6: Keeping health and productive at work

Employee

Do say

“I still need to be aware of my triggers to avoid becoming ill again and continue with regular check-ins with my manager.”

Don’t say

“Now that I have returned to work I shouldn’t keep mentioning my mental health at work.”

Employer/manager

Do say

“We will continue to have regular check-ins as agreed in the action plan. I also need to be aware of my employee’s triggers.”

Don’t say

“Now that my employee is back to work they won’t have any further problems relating to their mental health.”