How to help employees with long-term sickness

Long-term sickness is a significant issue with one million employees each year experiencing one or more spells of long-term absence.

In schools it can have a negative impact on colleagues and pupils as well as knocking the teacher’s confidence. However, an effective support programme will help to reduce the chances of long-term sickness recurring.

Early intervention

Research indicates that long-term absence is handled most effectively through early interventions and actions because the longer the period of absence, the less likely the employee will return to work.


When dealing with a teacher absent on long-term sickness consider:

‘Statement for Fitness for Work’ – if it says a teacher ‘may be fit for some work,’ is a phased return an option?

Medical advice – does a competent professional, such as a local authority occupational health officer or the teacher’s own GP consider a return to work possible?

Level of recovery - is a full recovery likely or will a return to the same work be impossible or inadvisable?

Adaptability - could the teacher return to work if some assistance were provided or their teaching duties re-organised or adapted?

Managing long-term absence

The key to managing long term absence is to:

  • Keep in regular contact
  • Discuss options for returning to school using advice given in the 'Statement for Fitness for Work'
  • Make use of occupational health resources if they are available
  • Clearly explain sick pay entitlement
  • Conduct return to work interviews
  • Develop a 'getting back to work' programme to support a teacher's return

Practical steps

There are many practical ways to help teachers back to work. For example:

Phased or supported return to work

  • Adapt teaching rosters to accommodate a return on a part-time basis
  • Plan an incremental return to reacquaint them with working practices. For example by assisting other teachers in classes rather than taking a class

Modify duties

  • Temporarily or permanently modify work activities. For example, install whiteboards rather than use flipcharts for teachers struggling with setting up the latter
  • Provide refresher courses if teachers need them
  • Modify work patterns and give teachers sufficient input into them
  • Use, where possible, distance learning courses for teacher training rather than imposing onerous travel arrangements
  • Provide a 'buddy' or mentor while teachers gain confidence back
  • Offer help with classroom supervision
  • Re-allocate work within the teaching departments where possible

Modify approach

  • Accomodate reasonable time off for medical or other treatments that are likely to alleviate the condition
  • Accomodate the need to attend examinations and treatment post return to work


Helping teachers suffering long-term sickness back into work makes a lot of sense both for the individual and the school. But, to produce a plan that works for everyone concerned, it takes a little planning, patience on both sides and a large dose of practical application. If you would like to go one step further to help staff to recuperate and get back to work, consider our staff healthcare service which reduce your school’s absence through prompt diagnosis and treatment of sickness conditions.


Why choose The Education Broker?

★ We do something for you that no other broker does – we do not work with just a single insurer, but instead several

★ We compare policies, to save you time and help ensure the detail gives you exactly what you need

★ We include a comprehensive suite of wellbeing services for staff to access

★ We provide a full range of insurance services, not just Staff Absence Insurance – like travel, cyber, motor, engineering, contract work

★ We are an approved partner of ISBL

To find out more about The Education Broker or to get a quote:

call: 0800 7833 500

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