This guideline covers how to help employees return to work after long-term sickness and how to help people receiving benefits return to employment (paid or unpaid).

NICE has also produced a guideline on managing health in the workplace.


This guideline includes recommendations on:

  • making initial enquiries about long-term sickness absence
  • detailed assessment by specialists
  • coordinating health, occupational and rehabilitation services, and return-to-work plans
  • support programmes for people receiving benefits

Who is it for?

  • Employers and commissioners
  • Employees
  • People receiving benefits
  • Members of the public

Is this guideline up to date?

We checked the guideline in September 2014. We found no new evidence that affects the recommendations in this guideline.

Next review: To be scheduled

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline 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.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)