Early Return to Work Program definition

Internal or external initiatives designed to help employees on long-term absence return to work earlier than anticipated by offering them a position that cuts down on the demands of their previous role, such as with reduced hours or responsibility. Alternatively, early return to work programs may provide equipment needed so that staff can return to the same role, which they wouldn't be able to perform without the new equipment.

The reasoning behind early return-to-work programs is that the longer an employee has off work, the harder it is for them to return in terms of rebuilding confidence, motivation, abilities and knowledge.

ERTW programs are often provided by external suppliers and may offer access to occupational health experts, such as psychologists and physiotherapists, to help identify what is stopping the employee returning to their previous position and what would help them return to work in a reduced capacity.


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