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Developing a Stay at Work Plan

Effective Stay At Work Plans:

  • Based on a Stay at Work policy - in an environment where staying at work is part of normal workplace practice

  • Involve temporary modifications to duties and job tasks - for any work-relevant problem irrespective of where it began

  • Include workers who are able to work only part-time - then build up to full-time as they recover


Closely related sections: Developing an Action Plan, Developing a Return to Work Plan, Graduated Approaches to Work and Activity


Stay at Work


The purpose of Stay at Work is to support and enable an ill or injured worker to recover safely whilst working to the fullest possible extent.

In general, people with common health problems get better faster and have fewer long-term difficulties if they are able to recover while they are working in a safe and supportive workplace - sometimes with temporary modifications.


Stay at Work is an option if the person can work part-time and the line manager agrees to the reduced or modified work schedule.


Usually it is better for people with common health problems to stay at work than have to return to work. Sometimes, though, a short period off work is unavoidable, it is then important to start back at work as soon as possible, at least part-time. That, though, isn’t the end-point - it's very important to have a plan for getting back to full-time.

The Stay at Work approach is entirely consistent with the emphasis on identifying obstacles early and tackling them effectively. Stay at Work requires the engagement of all key players - worker, line manager, clinicians, and others to ensure there is a coordinated approach to identifying and resolving obstacles to staying at work.


Someone has to take responsibility to identify any obstacles and to broker solutions so that recovery at work can commence as soon as is safe and practicable. If there are any concerns about risks associated with the job, a re-assessment may be required.


The plan should be simple and doable. As well as identifying the obstacles it will include detail on what the workplace can do to overcome them. That information may be very helpful for helping clinicians to encourage activity and participation in work. Clinicians, like GPs and physiotherapists are experts in diagnosis and treatment, but you’re the workplace expert. Your help is needed for them to understand your workplace. Clinicians who do not get input from line managers may needlessly restrict a worker from staying at, or returning to, work.


People in and around the workplace often lack the confidence to deal with work and health issues. The information and guidance in the toolbox promotes appropriate confidence. You don’t always need medical input to develop a Stay at Work plan. The worker may not be seeing a healthcare practitioner and there may not be a fit note. In these circumstances, it’s really a matter of common sense. But if you’re concerned, you can always ask the clinician. Obviously, if there is a fit note the Stay at Work plan needs to take account of the doctor’s advice.


It is possible to prevent needless disability by helping people to stay at work. One of the main benefits of a stay at work approach is that it prevents that 'disconnected' feeling workers encounter when they are off work.


Practical Tip: Much of today's work disability due to common health problems can be foreshortened or averted entirely.


This is because work absence is hardly ever medically required for more than a few days after illness and injury. To make a positive difference, emphasise these:

  • Being active during convalescence speeds recovery, while extensive work avoidance and "rest" tend to delay it.

  • Prolonged absence or permanent withdrawal from work is bad for people's well-being -- mental, physical, social and economic.

  • Prolonged withdrawal from work is usually being driven by psychosocial factors instead of medical ones.


Successful Stay at Work Outcomes
  • Identification of obstacles, and tackling these effectively.

  • Maintenance of work, part-time if necessary.

  • Using a graduated approach to increase from part-time to full-time work.


FACT: People can be helped to stay at, and return to, work


The pivotal thing is to provide a supportive workplace. There are seven key principles to follow.


Develop a Stay At Work Policy


Create an environment where staying at work and returning to work are part of normal workplace practice:

  • Accept and manage work injuries or illness originating at work in the same way as those originating elsewhere.

  • Put in place steps that need to be taken when someone reports an injury or illness, and assign specific responsibilities to people involved.

  • Develop a stay at work plan whenever a worker has any time off work for a few days, or reduces their hours at work.

  • Provide temporary suitable duties whenever possible.

  • Support and monitor the worker's progress while they stay at work recovering.

  • Use effective communication to ensure everyone know what is being done, why, and for how long.


Practical Tip: It is good to involve workers in the development of a stay at work policy. Use a positive approach to explaining it and managing expectations by establishing a Better at Work initiative.


What to Include in a Stay At Work Policy
  • The benefits of the Stay at Work policy and both the short and long-term goals

  • How Stay at Work will be managed

  • Who is responsible for what and when

  • How the policy is communicated

  • A process for reviewing and improving the Stay at Work policy, including obtaining feedback from workers


Line Managers and Senior Management need to be aware of the benefits of a stay at work approach. It helps to establish a clear picture of what the person can and cannot do, and whether there are any obstacles to recovery.


Workers need to be aware of the benefits of a stay at work approach. It makes it possible to have a period of reduced work hours, alternative duties, putting in place physical aids, exploring suitable travel options, or helping the employer make temporary modifications to the workplace. These all help you as a worker by keeping you in the workplace and engaged with your usual life.


Questions that may arise for Line Managers


My worker wasn’t injured or became ill at work, so do I have any influence over their return to work? Yes! The impact that you, and the organisation, have on a non-work illness or injury is usually identical to that for a problem that started at work.


This is because you still have a worker who is struggling to perform their usual duties and job tasks: they have a work-relevant problem. The line manager plays a key role in making it possible for the person to stay at work or return to work wherever the problem began. In general, you're still entitled to ask for information from your worker that enables you to help evaluate their work ability. Always ask if you're unsure.


Does it cost more to return an employee to work than it does to get a replacement? Probably not. Helping someone to stay at work doesn’t need to be expensive. It may be as simple as rearranging job tasks or equipment. In contrast, there can be a high cost if you replace a worker, due to advertising, recruitment time, loss of productivity while you’re recruiting, retraining, possible increases in waste and effects on staff morale.



Better At Work Checklist for Line Managers


  • Is there a Stay at Work Policy?

  • Did you make contact with your worker as soon as possible to offer Stay at Work option?

    • If it was not appropriate did you move to developing a Return to Work plan?

  • Did your worker give you a fit note?

  • Have you explained the Stay at Work process to your worker?

  • Have you identified suitable temporary modifications?

  • Have you discussed and agreed these with your worker?

  • Have you identified obstacles to the worker staying at work?

  • Have these been adequately addressed?

  • Is there a timeframe for the Stay at Work plan?

    • When will it be reviewed and/or modified if necessary?


Download a copy of the Better At Work Checklist for Line Managers

Checklist for Line Managers


Download a template Stay at Work Plan or Return to Work Plan

Template for Line Managers

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