Just 58% of line managers believe their organisation has a strong return-to-work plan for employees

Three in ten (30%) UK line managers do not feel fully confident supporting someone in the workplace if they were suffering from a long-term health condition such as Long Covid or cancer, rising to 39% of those aged 55+, finds Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research1.

Furthermore, when it comes to supporting colleagues with their mental and physical health and wellbeing in the workplace, just over half (58%) of all line managers believe their organisation has implemented a strong return-to-work plan for its employees, while a further 27% are unsure and 15% do not think they have. 

Almost 19 million people2 in the UK have a long-term health condition including cancer, heart disease, fatigue, pain and Long Covid. Reported cases of Long Covid alone were 1.9 million in March 20233 and two thirds (66%) of employees with Long Covid have experienced unfair treatment at work, compared to 52% in 20214. Added to this, the number of people who are economically inactive due to long term sickness in the UK has more than doubled in the past year to over 400,000 and is now 26 times higher than before the pandemic5.

Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research also found that one third (35%) of line managers do not fully understand the return-to-work process for employees with a long-term health condition. While seven in ten (71%) of line managers stated they know how to make reasonable adjustments to support someone returning to work, a further 21% were unsure and 9% did not know how. Older line managers are also less confident with 13% of those aged 55+ stating they do not know how to make reasonable adjustments in the return-to-work process.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, chartered health psychologist at Working To Wellbeing and Chair of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association said: “As the number of people with a long-term health condition in the UK increases, it is imperative that employers take note and best understand how they can manage and support these people in the workplace.

“In our decade-long experience as a back-to-work rehabilitation specialist, the key challenge to address is that many of those affected by a long-term health condition want to either remain in or return to work when ready, and employers – in particular, line managers at the coalface whose role is pivotal to supporting their colleagues at work – need to be equipped and ready to best support their workforce.”

Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research also found that two-thirds of employees (66%) stated that if they had a long-term health condition, they would feel confident that their line manager would support them well with a return-to-work process, falling to 58% of employees aged 55+. While a further 23% didn’t know and 11% did not have any confidence in their line manager in this matter.

Denning continued: “Our Line Manager Assistance Programme provides line managers with the tools, support and guidance they need to best help their colleagues with any type of long-term health condition, to stay in or return to work.”

Working To Wellbeing’s team of expert clinicians will help provide guidance & training for line managers to have conversations about their teams’ wellbeing at work.  The Line Manager Assistance Programme will include access to its dedicated Line Manager Helpline offering reliable and expert advice to provide reassurance when managing colleagues, as well as training and help for line managers to create return-to-work plans and wellbeing plans for people returning to work. Furthermore, tailored wellbeing sessions can also be provided to ensure managers are looking after their own physical and mental health needs.

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