Returning to work after long term illness

Are you going back to work after being off sick? Do you know what your rights are as an employee? Our guide will help clarify what you need to get back on track.

Going back to your job after a long-term sickness absence (over four weeks 1) is a positive step, and can even help your recovery. But, it can also be a little daunting and it's normal to feel uncertain about returning to work.

To help make things easier, here's our advice on making it easier for you.

What’s a fit note?

A fit note is a document from either your hospital doctor or GP. It doesn't have to suggest that you’re 100% well; just that you're ready to return to work.

The main purpose of a fit note is to advise your employer about how your health could affect your work.

For example, it might say that you need to gradually build up to your previous working hours over a period of time, or that you need to change your hours on a longer-term basis.

It will also include whether you'll need to change your working duties and whether adjustments will be needed for your workplace 2.

Once you have your fit note, you have a medical basis for discussing how you’ll return to work with your employer.

What are your employer's responsibilities?

Your employer needs to make 'reasonable adjustments' 3 so that your health or disability doesn't disadvantage you at work. Some of the changes you can discuss with them include:

  • Making your workplace more accessible
  • Allowing you to work from a different location
  • Reducing your working hours
  • Providing special equipment you might need
  • Adapting workplace policies that you're unable to follow
  • Providing extra training
  • Working with a different team
  • Working in a different role
  • A phased return to work

What’s a phased return to work?

Recovery from illness or injury often happens in stages. And in many cases, it makes sense that you return to work in stages too.

A phased return to work should be personalised to you and your condition. It can take anywhere from one to six weeks – potentially even longer. Normally, you'll gradually build up the hours you're working, and you might have more flexible hours, so you can avoid things like rush hour if it helps your recovery.

Our Income Protection Insurance includes a back to work benefit, so if you're earning less than before because your hours or responsibilities have changed, you may continue to receive a reduced payment after you start working.

Income Protection has no cash-in value at any time. It's important that you continue paying your premiums otherwise your policy will end and you won't be covered. You should review your cover on a regular basis to make sure this still meets your needs.

What happens to your income protection when you return to work?

After you've returned to work and you're no longer suffering a loss of earnings, your payments will stop.

There's no limit to how many claims you can make on your income protection insurance. Your return to work doesn't affect any future claims – your protection is the same as it was before.

If you need to claim again within 12 months for the same reason as your original claim, this will be considered a linked claim, so your benefits will start again straight away, rather than after the deferred period stated in your policy document. 

After you've gone back to work, you might need to claim again for an illness or injury. This could be for the same or a different condition.   

Depending on the type of cover you have with us you may be able to claim again straight away.