Reintegrating an employee into your company after a protracted absence can be difficult. They might face physical or psychological problems on their way back into the workplace – and it’s your job as the employer to offer all of the assistance necessary to overcome these problems.
Communication is key
Where practical, you’ll want to arrange a meeting with the returning employee in advance of their coming back into the company. Clarify their role, and answer any questions they might have. They should know who to contact with any questions.
During your first meeting, you should prioritise the employee’s emotional and psychological needs. Make sure that they understand their rights, and that they have a support network available in the workplace – even if it’s just an informal one.
Where you can make accommodations to facilitate their coming back, you should make them. This might mean installing wheelchair ramps, rearranging the desks in your office, or arranging a downstairs workspace. In older buildings, this might be slightly more challenging. Talk to the employee and determine what changes might be practicable.
In many cases, an employee might need short-term financial support to get through the reintegration period. You might offer them an advance on their wages, or you might arrange for an extended period of paid leave. You might also invite them to pursue compensation. Brain injury claims, for example, can often lead to a difference-making legal remedy.
In many cases, it may be advisable to gradually reintegrate the returning employee. Perhaps you might arrange for reduced hours, then gradually up the workload over weeks and months.
You might also provide the opportunity for hybrid working. If some of your employee’s duties can be performed from home, it might be that this offers a feasible way to build them up to full fitness. In some cases, you might even consider taking a hybrid or remote approach to their employment in the long term.
It’s also a good idea to let the rest of your workforce know about the returning employee, and what their needs might be. That way, they’ll get a warm welcome back into the fold.
The early phases of reintegration can require sensitivity and empathy. But it’s important that we don’t forget about the recovery in the long term. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with the employee, and make sure that they feel comfortable raising issues whenever necessary.