Stress - rehabilitation

This section outlines the elements of best practice in rehabilitation and provides guidance for managing sickness absence.


On occasions, in spite of our best efforts, some employees will have time off work due to work-related or other stress. Wherever possible, employees should be encouraged to stay at work, rather than take time off. However, if a period of absence is necessary, it’s important to manage the return to work with the individual. Rehabilitating someone into the workplace is sometimes called ‘vocational rehabilitation’.

In 2003, the Institute for Employment Studies produced an HSE-commissioned report on Best practice in rehabilitating employees following absence due to work-related stress.

The key findings from this work were that the following elements should be present when dealing with absence due to work-related stress:

  • written policies or guidelines
  • effective procedures for overseeing the rehabilitation process
  • trained line managers
  • early contact with the employee
  • early health assessment
  • having a rehabilitation plan agreed by all stakeholders, particularly the employee
  • providing flexible return-to-work options

Find out more

You can get more helpful advice in the leaflet Work and health: changing how we think about common health problems.

HSE guidance

The HSE has developed tools and documents to help with absence management and rehabilitation. These include:

More guidance

Professional health associations

British Association of Occupational Therapists and College of Occupational Therapists

British Psychological Society

British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine

Case Management Society UK

Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association

Faculty of Occupational Medicine

Institute of Occupational Medicine

Society of Occupational Medicine

Financial help and advice

Under certain circumstances, employees may qualify for government funding for the adjustments required to enable them to work.

Directgov explains…

‘If you feel that the type of work you do is affected by a disability or health condition that is likely to last for 12 months or more, ask the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Jobcentre Plus office about Access to Work. They can put you in touch with your closest Access to Work Business Centre to check whether you’re eligible for help.’

HM Revenue and Customs has a range of advice, including a calculator for statutory sick pay.

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