An employee who is returning to work from an extended absence can be a big adjustment for both parties. Whether an employee is returning to work from long-term parental leave, sick leave, extended holiday or long-service leave – there are steps employers can take to make the transition back to work easy.
In most circumstances, employees returning to work are entitled to the same job they had before leaving, or they must return to a job similar in pay, status and qualifications. If an employee was transferred to a temporary job or reduced their hours due to pregnancy, they are entitled to continue the same job they had before the change of roles or hours.
If an employee was transferred to a temporary job or alternative duties due to injury or illness, they may be entitled to continue the same job they had before. Whether the employee continues the same job as they had before depends on several factors including their ability to perform the role and length of extended leave.
In general, whether an employee plans on returning to work or not, they must notify the employer about their intentions within an agreed timeframe.
Employers and employees should work together to make the process of returning to work after a period of extended leave easy and hassle-free. Here are some useful tips for both parties to consider as part of the return to work plan:
Depending on the reason for the long-term absence, an employee who is returning to work may need a rehabilitation plan to ease into their normal duties.
While the circumstances of each individual will determine the level of care they need, a return to work plan should:
As the employee goes through the process of returning to work, employers should monitor and review progress to ensure the plan is working as intended. If there are delays to the recovery and changes need to be made, this should be done with the employee’s full cooperation and in fairness to their individual circumstances.
If an employee decides to not go back to work after their parental leave ends, they must tell their employer in writing at least 21 days before the parental leave ends. An employer can modify the employment agreement to increase the number of days an employee has to give notice of their intention to resign.
An employee will continue to receive their parental leave payments after notifying the employer they do not intend to go back to work.
Employees who do not go back to work will be considered to have ended their employment on the first day of their parental leave. This means the amount of holiday pay they receive as their final pay is based on this condition.
It can be difficult to manage a business when an employee is away from work because of long-term illness or injury. If the employee is not able to fulfill their role, there needs to be a discussion on whether to keep the position open – and for how long – and if it is reasonable to end their employment.
There are two ways to end an employment agreement for someone with a long-term illness: medical retirement and dismissal for medical incapacity.
Medical retirement allows an employee to leave the organisation and look for work that is more accommodating for their illness or injury. This should be the first option for employers before resorting to dismissal for medical incapacity.
In a situation where an employer reasonably believes that an employee can no longer perform their role, and/or the employer cannot reasonably keep the role open the employer can end the employment relationship due to medical incapacity.
Ending the employment relationship due to medical incapacity is a lengthy process and requires the employer to consider a range of factors. Read our guide on Long Term Illness here to find out more about the process employers need to follow.
An employee cannot lose their job because they applied for or went on parental leave or sick leave. However, if an employee takes more than four weeks of parental leave, their original position may change if it is considered a ‘key position’ or has been made redundant.
What defines a ‘key position’ depends on the size of the business and the level of skills or training required to do that job. An employee can disagree that their job is a key position.
In cases of parental leave, if an employer cannot keep the same job open, the employee enters a six month period known as a ‘period of preference.’ During this time, the employer must offer an employee a job similar in pay, status and qualifications at the nearest given opportunity.
In most cases, an employee can only return to work early or start their preference period early if the employer agrees. If the employee returning to work was caring for the child they gave birth to or was on extended sick leave, employers can ask for a medical certificate to ensure they are suitable to work.
An employee can return to work without permission from an employer if:
Employees must give at least 21 days’ notice (from the desired date of wanting to go back to work) of their intention to return early.
For advice on how to manage employee’s who are returning to work after a period of extended leave, contact Employsure on 0800 675 700.