Supporting an employee returning from mental health leave

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Health Assured team

17 July 2019

In 2018, Employee Benefits reported that 43% of British employees do not know whether they are allowed to take sick leave for mental health purposes.


According to BITC’s Mental Health at Work 2018 Report, one in three UK employees have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.


With a figure that alarming, it is highly likely that one of your employees has experienced a mental health issue at some stage in their life. And in severe cases, it may have been necessary for you to allow them to take some time away from work to recover and get themselves fit again.


If this situation occurs, it is important that you are prepared and well-equipped to properly manage it.


Absences can be a good thing

Although you hope for your employees to have perfect attendance records, unfortunately life doesn’t work out that way. And time off for illness—whether physical or mental—can be good for staff and your organisation.


If your employees can deal with their mental health issues as soon as possible, it will help them control them before they cause a long-term absence. And, if they are away from your organisation for a shorter time, you have a better chance of keeping them engaged and productive.


When you create a culture where it’s okay to take time off for mental health issues, you reassure unwell staff by reducing any stigma that may exist in your organisation.


Here, we have listed a few ways in which you can help support employees who have returned from mental health leave:


1. Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to consider making reasonable adjustments for employees returning to work after a long-term illness or significant physical ailment.


The same should be applied to mental illnesses. Helping an employee transition back into work by making simple adjustments, such as a change in work hours or altering their workspace for them can make all the difference.


2. Create an accepting culture

Due to the fear of being treated differently or discriminated against, employees are often reluctant to discuss their mental wellbeing with their colleagues and managers.


Therefore, it’s important to encourage your employees to actively talk about mental health as part of your wellbeing strategy and workplace culture.


3. Be there for your people

Keep in touch with any staff members who take time off for mental health issues. It shows that you appreciate them as a part of your team and that you’re supporting them through a difficult time.


Be careful that you don’t overdo it though. Constant phone calls will make your employees feel like you’re hounding them to come back to work.


4. Find the cause

BITC state that 61% of UK employees experience a mental health issue due to work, or where work has been a contributing factor.


Once your employee does return, ensure that you follow a set process. Hold a return-to-work interview to talk through the absence and see if there’s anything your organisation can do to help them feel comfortable in work. If there are any aspects of their role that contributes negatively towards their mental health, find a solution together.



If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

0844 892 2493

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