How to get support to return to work

If you’re returning to work after you’ve been sick and off work, it’s good to know there’s support out there.

You might be starting a new job or returning to your old employer, you could be completely recovered or returning with a long-term illness or disability, there are ways you can get help to ease your transition. Here’s how to access them.

Support from the government

If you have a long-term health condition or a disability, you may be eligible for an Access to Work grant. You could use this to pay for practical support such as special equipment or services to help you start working again, stay in work, move into self-employment or even start a business. How much you get depends on your circumstances, but the money you get won’t affect any other benefits you’re on. 

It’s worth talking to a disability employment adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus who can help you access the scheme. Or find out more about Access to Work here.

Access to Work only applies to people in England, Scotland and Wales, so if you’re in Northern Ireland check what help you can get here.

TIP: If you have a disability or a physical or mental illness, ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments so you’re not disadvantaged at work.

Support from your employer

Reasonable adjustments

If you have a disability or a physical or mental illness, ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments so you’re not disadvantaged at work. You can make the request through your line manager, HR, through your employer's occupational health department, if you have one, or via your union rep. Below are some examples of the type of workplace adjustments you could ask for.

Flexible working, reduced hours or different tasks. Ask if you can work flexibly, work from home, do fewer hours or carry out a slightly different role so you can better manage your health and your role. 

A phased return. Ask to gradually build up the number of hours you work or if you can begin working from home before you go into the office. 

Adapted equipment. You could request a specially adapted computer, keyboard, telephone, chair or desk, or adaptations to the workplace itself, for example ramps. 

Your employer doesn’t have to do everything you ask. If something is too expensive it may not count as 'reasonable'. You may find it helpful to read more about reasonable adjustments before you decide what adjustments to ask for.

Employee-led networks

If you have a long-term health condition or a disability, check if there are any employee-led networks within your organisation. These are made up of other people like you who are juggling their job and their condition, and they're usually independent of employers. Ask your HR department if there are any suitable networks you could join to get peer-to-peer support.

Back-to-work interview

This is an opportunity for your employer to welcome you back to the workplace, and for you both to talk about your return-to-work plan and any issues you may have. You don't have to do this on your own, you can bring your union rep or a co-worker you’re close with into the interview for support.

Disability awareness training

If you want to make sure your manager or your team are aware of what type of support you need on a daily basis, request disability awareness training for them. You can do this through your HR department.

TIP: You don't have to attend your back-to-work interview alone, you can bring your union rep or a trusted co-worker with your for support.

Support from us

We work in partnership with many major charities, and can sometimes provide services over and above what they usually provide. For example, we may be able to help by referring you to our partner Leonard Cheshire for specific advice and guidance on living with your condition. We also work with Renovo providing career transition and job search support.