Supervisors play a critical role in successful return to work after mental illness. A good understanding of the following areas will lead to better outcomes for the employee, you and your business.
If you are the person coordinating return to work as well as the supervisor, a good understanding of the following areas will help you support an employee who is off work or returning to work after sick leave due to a mental health problem, leading to better outcomes for the employee, you and your business.
- your responsibilities for managing the attendance and return to work of employees with a mental health problem
- the importance of good people management skills, including effective communication, rather than being knowledgeable about the employee’s mental health problem
- your organisation’s policy on return to work and how to put this into practice
- that successful return to work is linked to support from managers, the degree of control over work flexibility, the demands placed on them at work, the clarity of their role within the organisation, and their relationships at work
- the important role the employee plays in their own return-to-work process
- what organisational resources might be available for workplace adjustments
- how to introduce workplace adjustments and monitor the return-to-work process
- the factors that make it difficult to return to work and how you can minimise their impact
- what entitlements are available (e.g. family, sick and annual leave) for employees with a mental health problem
your legal responsibilities, such as those under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992)
- understanding that it is your role to assist the employee to get the help they may need, but not to diagnose mental health problems or to provide counselling
- recognising the limitations of your responsibility towards an employee with a mental health problem
You also need to know how to communicate with employees on sick leave or returning to work after a mental health problem. Good communication requires:
- being sensitive to and understanding the individual and their context
- managing the expectations of an employee returning to work
- knowing how to have sensitive conversations with employees, including how to handle those that do not go as planned
Mental health training can help supervisors develop the skills necessary for managing employees with mental health problems.