Returning to work after injury or illness

Returning to work after injury or illness


Posted by: Katya Halsall (Director, Voc Rehab UK)

Voc Rehab UK is a specialist Vocational Rehabilitation company, supporting people in getting back on the career ladder who have sustained serious injuries or who suffer from long-term health conditions.  We believe that it is important to focus on our client’s functional abilities rather than limitations, on what our clients can and are able to do.

When you’ve been out of work for a while, the task of going back to work may seem overwhelming. Where do I start? Would anyone employ me? How do I communicate my health problems to my employer? If you’re planning returning to work following an injury or illness, here’s some advice on things to consider.

First, a few words of encouragement…

  • Looking for a job is a full time job – it will take time and effort
  • There will be ups and downs in this process
  • Be prepared for set-backs
  • Be persistent
  • Remember your desired outcome
  • Write down your plans
  • Keep a diary
  • Do not worry about things that are out of your control
  • Do take charge of those things that you can and are able to control.

Decide what you want

Some people may never be able, or want, to return to work after an injury or illness. What are your plans? What is stopping you? It is important to be honest with yourself, whether you can work but prefer not to, or perhaps work may not be your goal for health reasons.

If you’re still employed

Communication with your employer is very important. In order to help with your return to work, they need to understand your abilities as well as your limitations. Make a list and take it to your employer to discuss. Also, be pro-active and suggest to your employer what you think may help.

If you’re no longer employed

If you’re no longer employed but want to go back to work, focus on your abilities-not limitations and consider the following:

  • What are your skills?
  • What is your education and employment history?
  • What are your abilities?
  • What can you offer to the employment market?
  • What are your interests?
  • Is there any training you might benefit from?

Making a decision about the type of job

  • Look at resources which may be able to help you, such as disability employment advisors, the Job Centre, national career services advisors and online CV builders
  • Explore 3-4 job industries that interest you
  • Which job types match your education, experience and skills?
  • Is there anything you may need to learn?

Consider these steps

  • Pre-return to work support such as improving your general wellbeing and engaging in enjoyable activities and hobbies
  • Expanding your skills by starting a short training course
  • Working for free – volunteering is a great way to improve your weekly routines, meet new people and gain a sense of satisfaction. Volunteering can also be the first step in returning to paid employment, as it helps to gain new skills, enhance your CV and demonstrates your willingness to work.

Things to work on

  • Be realistic about your abilities and limitations
  • Consider who could help you with workplace support (charity advisor, case manager, vocational rehabilitation consultant, occupational health advisor, disability employment advisor, etc.)
  • Communicate your needs to your employer
  • Create a professional CV and learn how to amend it according to employers’ expectations
  • Prepare for job interviews
  • Learn how to disclose your disability in a positive way.


Good luck and enjoy!

To read Katya’s tips on looking for a job following a serious injury, click here. Or to learn more about Voc Rehab UK and the services they offer, click here.

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