Attendance Management

by Kate Russell

Case study — return to work

‘Return to work’ is a programme run by employee assistance provider ICAS. It originated in Australia, where the organisation achieved an 86 per cent success rate in getting employees with depression back into work within an average of four weeks.

Getting back to work is not only important from a personal financial point of view, but can also play a fundamental part in recovering from depression.

Once an employer identifies the problem, one of the ICAS team meets with the employee to assess the underlying issues and immediate priorities. Working together with the employee and his line manager, they create a step-by-step plan which involves liaising with their doctor and organising counselling or therapy.

At that stage the individual’s capacity for work is assessed, specific barriers identified and a plan for return to work is developed, ensuring the right support is in place to make it possible.


Joe (not his real name) had been feeling the stress mounting for many months at his work for a bank. His team had been cut and he was doing three people’s jobs. ‘That kind of pressure is fine for a couple of months, but you can’t sustain it in the long term.’ He didn’t realise how bad things were until he crashed his car last August.

‘All of a sudden my world just caved in.’ The crash acted as a trigger to a breakdown and depression followed. Joe was signed off work and for the first few weeks all he could was to sit at home and do nothing. Fortunately, his company use the ICAS ‘Return to Work’ programme and were able to offer him a route back into work.

ICAS contacted Joe at home and suggested that he start by seeing a psychologist on a regular basis. After a few weeks, the ICAS consultant began to work out a step-by-step programme for Joe to return to work, which involved working closely with him and his line manager.

Joe was keen to get back to work, but the issues that had triggered his depression in the first place needed to be addressed. ‘My line manager has been first class,’ he said. ‘She recognised that I couldn’t keep up the volume of work I had before and has taken steps to sort out the lack of support.’ Joe started by visiting the office for a few weeks before starting work. His consumer-facing work began again just two weeks ago and he is delighted to be back.

‘I’m working part-time to start with, which is great. Everyone knows what’s happened and have been really supportive, which suits me as I’m an open book and don’t want to hide anything.’