Review decision: 

No update required - published guidance still current

Next review: To be scheduled

This guidance is for all those who manage long-term (or recurring short- or long-term) sickness absence and incapacity, including employers and people working in the NHS. It will also be of interest to workplace representatives and trades unions, employees and those receiving incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance (ESA).

Three of the recommendations aim to help employers and employees work together to ensure the right support is available to help someone on sickness absence return to work as soon as they are able.

NICE recommendations for employers include:

  • Identify someone who is suitably trained and impartial to undertake initial enquiries with an employee who is experiencing long-term sickness absence or recurring short- or long-term sickness absence.
  • If necessary, arrange for a more detailed assessment by relevant specialist/s. This could be coordinated by a suitably trained case worker/s.
  • Coordinate and support any health, occupational or rehabilitation interventions or services and any return-to-work plan agreed with the employee.

The guidance also recommends that those who are unemployed and claiming incapacity benefit or ESA should be offered an integrated programme of support to help them enter or return to work. This advice is aimed at the Department for Work and Pensions and other relevant commissioning bodies and organisations.

This guidance was previously called managing long-term sickness and incapacity for work.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

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