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Facilitating best back-to-work practice

Academics from Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology are developing a toolkit to support people returning to work after a period of ill-health.

Colleagues at a table discussing best back-to-work practice

A project led by academics at Birkbeck has been awarded major funding from the Department of Work and Pensions to build a toolkit to support people returning to work after a period of ill-health.

Sickness absence costs the UK economy more than £12 billion each year. While organisations often have policies in place, employees and managers face challenges in putting these into practice. Without the benefit of in-house support, small and medium businesses face a particular challenge in supporting people back to work following absence.

Dr Jo Yarker and Dr Rachel Lewis, who have recently joined the Department of Organizational Psychology, are leading the collaboration between Birkbeck, Kingston University, Loughborough University and Affinity Health at Work to develop this toolkit, which will help employees and employers navigate the return to work journey.

Yarker and Lewis said: “Returning to work after sickness or stress can be daunting for employees, while employers may struggle with the knowledge or resources to adequately support them. This toolkit will include conversation guides, quick view actions and development exercises, designed to facilitate productive conversations and to help employees and managers talk more openly during the return to work process.”

Drawing from a multi-disciplinary research base and informed by stakeholders across health and industry, the toolkit aims to support people returning from mental ill-health, musculoskeletal conditions, cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, or visual and hearing loss.

The Department of Work and Pensions has awarded a total of £206,000 over three phases of development and evaluation, of which Birkbeck will receive £30,000.

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