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Phased returns to work

We usually talk about phased return to work plans following on from a long-term absence, although they can also be recommended after shorter absences depending upon the circumstances or if there is a recommendation to do so by your GP or other medical professional. So, what is a phased return?

A phased return is an individual support plan developed between you and your manager with the aim of helping you return to work and build your skills, confidence, and stamina to return to your normal working pattern. Plans may vary in length, and the degree of reduction in your working hours, or days of work. Your GP or other healthcare professional may recommend a phased return to work, especially where you've been out of work for a longer period of time.

What's available to you

It's difficult to know what a phased return may look like if you don't know what's available to you and what you can ask for. This isn't definitive list, but is a helpful guide based on our experience of managing cases over many years.

  • A variation to your normal working pattern - for example working every other day for the first week(s) or return.
  • A reduction in the number of hours worked - you'll gradually building up to normal hours throughout the life of the plan.
  • Daily, weekly, or bi-weekly check-ins - it's important that you have good, and regular contact with your manager so agree contact that works for you. We'd recommend a catch-up on your first day of return, or after the first week of return to gauge how things are going and whether your plans still seem realistic and achievable.
  • A reduction, or otherwise a change of your work duties - there does need to be available work for you that you are competent and trained to undertake, but for example if you had broken a limb, it would be reasonable to adjust your duties to ensure you didn't need to do heavy lifting.
  • Training for your role - depending upon how long you've been absent, you may need more than just a refresh of your mandatory training. Agree any training needs you have and don't forget to review this as you go along.
  • Confidence building & coaching - all absences are different, but especially when it comes to those relating to mental health, we know that confidence can take a knock. If you feel you need additional coaching and support, have meaningful conversations with your manager about your confidence levels and importantly what you think you need to overcome this.
  • Other physical or non-physical adjustments - more breaks, a change of location, physical adjustments to your desk or equipment, these are all examples of adjustments that may be necessary especially if you have additional needs because of an impairment through disability.

The most important thing is to keep talking, reviewing your progress as you go along, and adjusting your plan, as necessary.

Length of plans

There is no set maximum for a phased return plan, and it should be considered on an individual plan. However, in the majority of situation a plan length up to 6 weeks would be seen as normal and reasonable. If you think your circumstances requires a longer plan, talk to your manager about this in the first instance and if you need support from us contact your local Accord officer.

How you will be paid

You will be paid your normal rate of pay for all hours you work during a phased return plan.

You can still receive pay for the hours that you are normally contracted to work but aren't working. This is achieved by using any remaining occupational sick pay you have left, or by using accrued holiday allowance. Sick pay is paid at the current rate applicable to you, so if you've exhausted your full pay, and your sickness entitlement is half-pay or nil pay, then taking holiday hours would usually be the most beneficial to ensure you receive your full pay throughout the period. Unpaid leave could also be considered if neither sick pay or holiday leave is available.

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