Did you know that 47% of employees felt stigmatized at work for having been on disability leave? A similar number also felt isolated and alone during their return. [1]

Returning to work after an illness or injury can be a challenging time for both employees and employers. The process can be difficult and uncomfortable, causing concerns such as declining mental health and relapse. According to the Healthy Returns report by Sun Life and Ipsos, 48% of employees didn’t speak to their direct manager on a weekly basis about how their return was going. 49% said that the main concern for returning back to work before they were ready was their financial situation. This highlights the gap that exists between an employer’s perception about return to work and actual employee experiences. Although intentions may be right, there is no guarantee of a successful re-integration process. This is why implementing best practices for return-to-work is an essential step for successful outcomes.

When asked what was most valuable in supporting a successful return-to-work transition, employees mentioned:

  • Better access to care
  • Better benefits plan
  • Self-help resources

For employers, this is an opportunity to take employee concerns into consideration and provide support that can help ensure a successful return. This means employees who return feeling happier, healthier and more engaged in the workplace.

Actions you can take:

  • Review benefits coverage levels to ensure it’s adequate and suitable
  • Provide access to care through solutions like virtual care and health coaching
  • Be open to accommodations and gradual returns
  • Reinforce a culture of acceptance and reassurance
  • Provide self-help tools and resources

Sun Life’s report, in partnership with Ipsos, Healthy Returns, identifies the steps and actions that can increase the chances of success after an employee has returned to work from a disability leave. And toolkits for employers and employees lay out the steps each can take in contributing to a successful return.

These resources can make it easier for you to start taking action on improving the return-to-work experience for employees. Your understanding of how to overcome potential roadblocks is essential to maintaining workplace productivity. By setting up best practices, you can help to make an employee’s return to work more successful and sustainable.

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[1] Healthy Returns, Supporting employees who have returned to work after a disability leave, a joint research report with Ipsos, Sun Life, 2024