If your employee has been away from work having treatment, it can be difficult to know when they are ready to come back. Many employees do not get medical advice about when to go back to work. They are left to make this decision alone, based on when they feel it’s the right time to return.
Joint return-to-work planning is where both you and your employee discuss and agree the best way forward. Cancer can be unpredictable, so plans should be flexible. They should be regularly reviewed so things can change along the way if needed.
Reasonable adjustments could be helpful ways of easing someone back into the workplace. These could be allowing flexible working, or planning a phased return to work. It’s important to fully involve your employee in these conversations, to make sure you’re making the decisions together.
In addition to agreeing a return-to-work plan, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with your employee a week or two before their first day back at work. Having a meeting before they fully return to work gives them a chance to visit the workplace, hear important updates and raise any concerns. It also allows you to find out how they are feeling and sort out any potential problems before they happen.
You can check how much they want the team or the rest of the organisation to know, and how comfortable they will be with people asking them how they are.
If you are their manager, you will need to be flexible with your employee’s return-to-work scheme. Their recovery from cancer may be difficult to predict, so the plan may have to change over time. Recovering from cancer is often a long process and side effects may continue for months or even years.
As part of your joint return-to-work plan, you will need to discuss and finalise any reasonable adjustments you need to make.
Phased return to work
An example of a reasonable adjustment you could make is to allow your employee to make a gradual, phased return to work. You and your employee could do this by agreeing a lighter workload, or using holiday they are owed to shorten the working week.
A phased return to work can allow your employee to return to work sooner. It can also allow them to settle back in at a pace that suits them and you. This can be an effective way to help employees readjust after a period of time off because of illness.