Returning to work

When to return?

  • When day to day activity levels are reasonably consistent 

  • When a daily routine has been established. 

  • When bad days are less severe and less frequent

  • When there is an understanding in relation to individual triggers and appropriate strategies are in place to manage them.

  • When the person feela well enough in themselves (even if activity levels are significantly less than before)

  • When medical clearance has been provided, particularly if the role involves heavy lifting or exertion, or it is a safety critical role

When ready to return to work, an employee should do the following:

  1. Liaise with their GP

  2. Liaise with Occupational Therapy/Long Covid Clinic

  3. Complete a Return to Work Action Plan (or NHS Health Passport)

  4. Meet with employer/manager

  5. Undergo a full occupational health assessment

  6. Seek representation from a Trade Union, if necessary

Click here to visit the SOM site to download a leaflet detailing this process further.

A phased return to work:

phased return to work offers workers the opportunity to return to work at an earlier stage of recovery from illness by allowing them to work reduced hours with modified duties based on a structured return to work plan.

What to expect: A phased return to work involves an arrangement between you and your employer. It allows you to come back to work on one or all of the following conditions:

  • Reduced hours.

  • Lighter duties.

  • Alternative duties.

  • Environmental/workplace location alterations

  • Reasonable adjustments.

You may need an extended phased return:

With Long Covid, phased returns may need to extend beyond the typical 2-6 week period, extended returns have no fixed time frames.  GPs can recommend an extended phased return within the Fit Note.

  • Extended = Open-ended with no fixed time frame 

An extended phased return allows a person to:

  • Build endurance to work-related tasks

  • Learn how to transfer symptoms management strategies to the workplace 

  • Have sufficient time for recovery 

  • Return to work sooner 

  • Return to work more sustainably 

  • Facilitate continued recovery

Reasonable adjustments

A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change to remove or reduce the effect of:

  • an employee’s disability so they can do their job

  • a job applicant’s disability when applying for a job


The reasonable adjustment could be to:

  • the workplace

  • the ways things are done

  • get someone to help the employee or job applicant

What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on each situation. The employer needs to consider carefully if the adjustment:

  • will remove or reduce the disadvantage for the person with the disability

  • is practical to make

  • is affordable by the employer or business

  • could harm the health and safety of others

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