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Supporting stroke survivors returning to the workplace

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Supporting employees back into work following a stroke can be both complex and challenging.  A supportive and collaborative approach is likely to be key to identifying what reasonable adjustments can be made. Importantly, the leadership that occupational health can provide will be invaluable, argues Laura Barlow.

Strokes are very common, with one in six people suffering a stroke in their lifetime. Around 100,000 people have strokes in the UK each year, and the incidence of stroke in the working population is increasing, with around 25% occurring in people of working age, and almost half of those (12%) in people under age 45.

Stroke can cause a number of significant long-lasting problems for survivors, including physical disability, cognitive problems, issues with communication, fatigue, and difficulty managing emotions.

Although stroke has devastating effects for some individuals, many stroke survivors are able to return to work and can make a valuable contribution in doing so.

Duty on employers

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. ‘Disability’ is defined as a physical and or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is an alteration to the workplace or the way a disabled person does their job in order to allow them to work. Consequently, the vast majority of people returning to work following a stroke will have a right to reasonable adjustments, and it’s important that the employer takes their duty towards their employee seriously.

The adjustments that can reasonably be made will depend on the resources of the organisation, but adjustments don’t need to be costly or complicated. There is no set formula as to what constitutes a reasonable adjustment; no two stroke survivors are the same and the important thing is to tailor adjustments to the individual’s specific needs.

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