Return to Work After Maternity or Sickness

Return to Work After Maternity Leave

Maternity leave can last up to 52 weeks (ordinary leave + additional leave). Typically, a date of return to work after maternity will be agreed upon when the employee first discusses maternity leave. If the employee wants to return before the end of the maternity leave, they need to give at least an 8-week notice. If that notice has not been given and the employee returns to work after maternity, the employer can then postpone the return to work.

If the employee has been notified that their return to work after maternity was postponed, but they come back to work anyway, they are not entitled to payment. If the employer did not notify of a return to work after maternity date, the employee does not have to give notice for an early return to work and the employer cannot delay or refuse payment for an early return.

Employers may want to discuss with the employee prior to their return to see if any flexible working will be needed. Flexible working hours or working from home could be arranged, for example in the return to work after maternity leave.

Returning to Work After Sick Leave

Employers have a vital role to play when it comes to supporting an employee getting back to work after a long-term illness.

It is generally a good idea for employers to start planning any necessary adjustments during the employee’s absence. If the absence is due to a work-related injury, it may be required to investigate the conditions of the accident and take precautions so that the accident doesn’t occur again.

Employers should also make sure that they are aware of any specific areas of the law they need to comply with, such as health and safety, risk assessment or reporting of injuries and diseases etc.

Before the employee officially returns to work, it is recommended to hold a meeting or “interview” with the employee to discuss their general state of health, their ability to perform their job safely and effectively and whether any adjustments will be necessary.

The Fit for Work scheme can support employers and provide information for both employers and employees on how to best welcome an employee back to work after a long absence. In some cases, a staged (or phased) return may be advisable.

A phased return is an agreement between employer and employee to have the employee work at any level from a couple of hours to a couple of days before they go back to their normal tasks or hours. A timeframe can be decided, usually between a week and 6 weeks (unless there are some long-term fatigue issues).

Making sure to support your employees so they can return to work in the best conditions, whatever the reasons, has many benefits for employers and employees including:

  • Positive culture and morale boost
  • Increases staff retention
  • Reduced costs due to absence
  • Speeds recovery and prevents relapses

For more specific advice, don’t hesitate to visit the website of Fit for Work Scotland or Fit for Work. For specific compliance issues or advice on the return to work after maternity or sick leave process, you can also get in touch with us!

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