IOSH rehabilitation policy

We know that 'good work' is good for health and wellbeing. Among other things, this means work that's safe, supportive and accommodates people's needs. We also know that positive perceptions about work have been linked with higher productivity, profitability and staff retention.

IOSH advocates a holistic, proactive approach to managing health and rehabilitation issues at work. Everyone should work together - workers, managers, general practitioners, human resources and health and safety professionals.

The facts

  • The aim of rehabilitation is to help employees who are absent as a result of illness or disability to return to work or allow those with chronic health conditions to remain in work. It involves a range of measures from medical intervention to workplace adjustments.
  • 'Good work' is good for health and wellbeing. Among other things, this means work that's safe, supportive and accommodates people's needs. Positive perceptions about work have been linked with higher productivity, profitability and staff retention.
  • It makes business sense for organisations to support rehabilitation, as otherwise they risk losing the skills of valuable employees, lower productivity and the cost of temporary replacements and sick pay.  
  • As an employer, you need to comply with employment, disability and age discrimination law and may want to reduce the likelihood of civil claims and associated reputation damage should an absence be due to work-related accident or ill health.
  • Research has highlighted the benefits of work in providing the economic support, social inclusion and self-esteem that are important for individuals' physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Unmanaged long-term absence, possibly leading to avoidable ill health retirement, can be costly for the employee, the employer and society as a whole.
  • Well-managed rehabilitation and return-to-work programmes can reduce pain and suffering, minimise or eliminate long-term disability, and support people return-to-work in a timely and safe way.
  • The new Fit for Work Service is a Government funded initiative designed to support people in work with health conditions and prolonged sickness absence to return-to-work.

Our position

IOSH promotes health protection and promotion at work and inclusion of rehabilitation policies as part of a wider employer strategy on employee health, safety and wellbeing. We advocate a holistic, proactive approach to managing health and rehabilitation issues at work. Everyone should work together - workers, managers, general practitioners, human resources and health and safety professionals - to:

  • tackle the causes of work-related injury and ill health
  • address the impact of health on employees' capacity to work, providing support for those with disabilities and health conditions and rehabilitation
  • promote healthier lifestyles and wellbeing to help improve the general health of the workforce.

We think recovery and long-term management of health conditions at work should be helped through a variety of proactive interventions, such as manager education, in-house support groups, flexible working and access to appropriate therapies. IOSH provides a number of free tools to help organisations develop skills in this area (see here) and the IOSH Blueprint competence and skills framework.

Specifically, we've developed guidance on rehabilitation and managing attendance to enable health and safety professionals to play an increased role in workplace health issues and facilitating and supporting safe and sustainable rehabilitation. The IOSH occupational health toolkit has sections on stress, musculoskeletal disorders, skin conditions and inhalation hazards, with information on rehabilitation for each. Our non-work-related tools on managing stroke and coronary heart disease also cover rehabilitation issues.

IOSH advocates that where employers can help workers access certain therapies needed to stay in, or return to, work; tax relief should be available, see IOSH Li£e Savings report. Also, that in addition to the Fit for Work Service, small businesses in England and Northern Ireland should have free access to workplace visits and advice, similar to Healthy Working Lives Scotland or Healthy Working Wales.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses