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Rehabilitation is the process of restoring skills after an illness or injury, helping you regain self-sufficiency and function.

The HSE is committed to the provision of workplace rehabilitation that supports injured or sick employees to remain at, or return to, the workplace.

Providing modified or accommodated work may mean that you can return early and safely to work activities suitable to your abilities. This process benefits you and your employer.

Rehabilitation of employees back to work after illness or injury policy and procedure (PDF, 1.2 MB, 30 pages)

This policy provides a process which can enable employees to stay at work or support employees to return to work within a safe and structured process following injury or illness, so far as reasonably practicable. This is a collaborative process between the employee, manager and others in order to reach the best outcome.

Supporting an employee to stay at or return to work

A training programme is available to HSE line managers to support them in the management referral and rehabilitation processes. The training programme, Work Rehabilitation in the HSE, consists of two 20 minute modules and is available on HSeLanD

There is also a practical information booklet for employees who are out of work with long term sick leave called returning to work from sick leave. This booklet contains advice and signposting to support employees to return to work as soon as possible.

Benefits of workplace rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programmes reduce sickness absence which benefits both employees and the services in which they work.

Employees benefit from being at work because:

  • employment is generally the most important means of earning a living
  • work meets important psychosocial needs in societies
  • work is central to people’s identity, social roles, and social status
  • employment and socio-economic status are key drivers of peoples’ physical and mental health

Providing recommended workplace accommodations helps to get skilled, knowledgeable staff member back into the workplace sooner. This means that services can be provided and absence costs are reduced.

Rehabilitation policy and procedure

The HSE rehabilitation process for employees is outlined in the rehabilitation of employees back to work after illness or injury policy and procedure (PDF, 1.2 MB, 30 pages).

Rehabilitation needs engagement from everyone involved. This includes employees, line managers, senior managers, occupational health, human resources and other medical personnel (GPs, physiotherapists, specialists).

Managers communicating with employees during sickness absence

Having regular contact with your employees during sickness absence enables you to discuss possible rehabilitation opportunities. You can let your employees know that it may be possible for them to return to work before making a full recovery. This is also an opportunity for employees to stay linked to the workplace, making their return to work easier.

HSE Managing Attendance Policy outlines how employees when absent from work should report illness to their manager.

For further information on communicating during absence see the National Disability Authority guidance - retaining employees who acquire a disability: A guide for employers (page 17 - Keep in Touch).

Providing reasonable accommodations

Occupational Health may sometimes recommend that an employee can return to work with specific workplace accommodations.

This may include adaptations to:

  • workplace premises to make them more accessible for employees with disabilities
  • work equipment
  • patterns of working time
  • distribution of tasks

Where an employee is unfit for their substantive post, alternative employment options may be examined. These are posts which are comparable in terms of duties, knowledge, skills, and experience.

Occupational Health would need to consider the job demands of the alternative employment option, in order to assess fitness for this post.

Occupational Health recommendations usually relate to temporary accommodations. This may include phasing a return to work, or for less physical duties for a short period of time. The accommodation will occasionally be requested on a permanent basis. The manager must investigate how these workplace accommodations may be facilitated.

Managers must document the process of investigating these measures and must communicate the outcome of this to Occupational Health.

HSA's employees with disabilities document

This is an employer’s guide to implementing inclusive health and safety practices for employees with disabilities.

Rehabilitation documents

Managers can use the employee referral form (Word, 130 KB, 4 pages) to refer an employee to Occupational Health.

Use the job demands form (Word, 11 4KB, 2 pages) to provide an outline of the job demands to Occupational Health. This will assist them with providing recommendations on fitness for work based on the specific tasks involved.

Use the work rehabilitation plan (Word, 54.3 KB, 2 pages) to put accommodations in place recommended by Occupational Health. This is completed by the line manager, in consultation with the employee.

See also:

Guidelines for completing job demands and current abilities form (Word, 24.4 KB, 2 pages)

Guidelines for completing the work rehabilitation form (Word, 54.3 KB, 2 pages)

Related content

Supporting employees with Long COVID at work

HSE returning to work from sick leave (employee booklet) PDF, 632 KB, 12 pages)

Rehabilitation of employees back to work after illness or injury policy and procedure (PDF, 1 MB, 30 pages)

Health and Safety Authority - employees with disabilities

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) - Information on reasonable accommodation


Local occupational health contact details (PDF, 474 KB, 20 pages)