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Returning to Work After a Head Injury

Category: Industry News

Screenshots from the Slide Share JMW have put together on returning to work after a head injury. First slide is of a man and woman stood side by side with the title Helping you to return to work after a head injury. Second slide has the graphic of the woman from slide 1 talking to her seated manager. A speech bubble from the manager says "What can we do for you?" and the another from the woman saying "I might need some help". At the bottom of the slide are the words: You are not required to share exact details of your head injury with your employer, but you may find it useful to discuss how it could effect your work performance and identify any changes that could be made. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace. Some things you could discuss with your employer include...
3rd Slide has three images, the first is of the woman working at her desk with words: Working shorter hours and taking more breaks to maintain focus and a high skill level. The second image is of the man carrying three boxes of varying sizes with the words: Taking on a lighter load. The third image is of the woman surrounded by her colleagues with the words: Telling your colleagues about your head injury so they understand.

by Paul Breen, JMW's Head of Catastophic Injuries

At a certain stage in the process of recovering from a head injury, an individual may feel that they are ready to return to work. However, the lasting effects that a head injury can have on executive functioning can make it tricky to effectively do the job they previously held. Executive functioning is the broad term for the set of processes used to manage oneself and one’s resources, so when your executive functioning is affected, skills such as multitasking, concentrating, remembering or being able to work in a busy or noisy environment, could be affected.

It is vital that employers have an understanding of what support they can provide if one of their workers suffers a head injury. Unfortunately, there is still a general nervousness on the part of both employers and employees when it comes to discussing mental health issues. Paul Breen, head of JMW’s catastrophic injuries team, explains where this nervousness comes from:

“In my experience, employees are afraid to talk about the impact a head injury has had on their ability to work for fear of being misunderstood or patronised. Employers, on the other hand, are reluctant to ask questions for fear of saying the wrong thing. Allowing time to talk to the individual about their specific injury and the impact it is having on what they can and cannot do is a great starting point.

“There are many ways to approach an employee’s return to work after a head injury and it is important to make sure that this is done correctly because it is a key part of the recovery process.”

The personal injury team at full-service law firm JMW Solicitors has created a visual guide to give head injury sufferers and employers an idea of what should be discussed and what strategies can be put into place before and after an employee returns to work.

What employees can do

Returning to work following a head injury can be a stressful and worrying time, but there are steps you can take to minimise this by re-familiarising yourself with your working pattern. For instance, you could go to bed and wake up at the same time that you will be getting up when you’re back at work, or you could practice your commute in the run up to your return to work, giving you confidence that you can commute safely.

If your job involves a computer, watching films or playing video games can get you used to focusing on a screen for long periods of time again, while reading books and completing word puzzles can be useful for engaging your brain and problem solving. Memory aids, such as diaries and to-do lists, can help with organisation and preparation.

What employers can do

From an employer’s perspective, it is important to understand what support they can provide to make the transition back to work as easy as possible. Employers are also legally required to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace under the Equality Act 2010.

Examples of adjustments that might need to be made include:

  • Reducing working hours until the employee is eased back into the role.
  • Adjusting the workload.
  • Assigning a mentor to the employee, which can help to address any issues that arise quickly and efficiently.
  • Organising regular meetings with the employee, so the employer can check how they are getting on and whether any further support or adjustments are required.

Paul Breen concludes: “Without appropriate assistance, individuals can quickly become overwhelmed and may be unable to cope; a disaster for both employee and employer. Having an open dialogue can make all the difference and ensure that the right adjustments are made - whether this is an increase in flexibility of working hours, a change of role or having different support structures in place to ensure that the person is treated fairly.

“Creating a supportive, open environment for those individuals who have suffered a head injury may seem daunting. However, the rewards run very deep. I always do as much as possible to help my clients get back to work after they have sustained a head injury, and I hope our guide goes some way to helping facilitate supportive discussions and, ultimately, get people back into the world of work.”

Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.



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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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