A serious injury can have all manner of knock-on effects. It might compromise an individual’s ability to do something as simple as make a cup of tea. It might make driving impossible and leave the victim wholly reliant on the goodwill of family members. In many cases, it can be detrimental to a person’s mental health, too: feelings of inadequacy and helplessness are common.
Among the biggest challenges on the road to a recovery is a return to work. This is especially so if the injury was actually suffered in the workplace, as returning to the scene of an accident can trigger anxiety and even panic. But even if this isn’t the case, the return to work can represent a daunting readjustment, especially for a person whose confidence is at an all-time low.
Anything that an employer can do to make this transition easier will help to limit stress for the employee. This isn’t just desirable for ethical reasons: it’ll also yield productivity benefits, too, as it’ll help the employee to get up to speed more quickly, and demonstrate to other employees that they’ll receive the support of the business should they find themselves in the same unfortunate position.
Mental Health Problems
National Accident Helpline, a no-win no-fee solicitor specialising in injury claims, conducted an extensive survey of injury-sufferers as part of an awareness-raising campaign called Make It Right. Seven out of ten people surveyed reported some form of mental health issue as a result of their ordeal. Stress and anxiety were the most often-cited, with 35% and 34% of respondents respectively claiming to suffer from them. But more severe consequences, like panic attacks and sleep deprivation, were also present. Most respondents (62%), claimed that their mental recovery took longer than they expected.
All of this suggests that workers are not only likely to be suffering from a mental health problem, or at the very least a drop in mood and increased uncertainty. Despite some modern changes in attitudes, there is still a widespread reluctance to talk about mental health challenges. This taboo is especially prevalent in the workplace, where there is a reluctance to be perceived as weak or burdensome. As such, employers should not expect workers to ask for extra support: they should instead offer it proactively. This support might come in the form of formal counselling, or it might simply be a little extra leeway when it comes to performance.
Phasing the Return
It is unreasonable to expect an injured employee to hit the ground running. Instead, an employee might agree upon a gradual schedule or readjustment, where workload is hugely reduced to begin with, and gradually increased over time. In some cases, you might find that you can accelerate this reintroduction; in others, it might be necessary to keep it slow.
A major source of stress around this time comes from money concerns. While an employee is out of action, they may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – but this might not be sufficient for them to live comfortably. Any financial support you can offer during this time will be gratefully received.
Make Workplace Readjustments
In some cases, the injury might be long-term. Sometimes, it can even be permanent. Employers are obligated under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate injured or disabled employees. This can be as simple as rearranging the office space to allow for a wheelchair, or installing a disabled spot into the car park. Costing little time and effort, these measures can have a profound impact on an employee’s wellbeing and productivity.