Going back to work after stroke

Returning to work after a stroke can be a big change. With the right care, support and advice many do return. Planning ahead can help you through the process.

Will I be able to go back to work?

With the right care, support and advice many people do return to work. Whether you are able to return to work and how long it takes will depend on the effects of your stroke, the type of care and support you received, what work you were doing before and the amount of support your employer can give you.

How long will I be off work?

Every stroke is different, and every recovery is different. Someone who had a small stroke could return to work within a few weeks, while others may return after months or a couple of years. There’s no set pattern.

Talk to your doctors, nurses, and therapists about what you can expect. The most important thing is to take things as they come and follow any treatment or rehabilitation therapy you have been given.

What should I tell my employer?

If possible, contact your employer yourself. Tell them that you:

  • Have had a stroke.

  • Are taking part in rehabilitation.

  • Will contact them again. Ideally, you should specify when you will next be in touch to discuss your return.

If you need advice, your GP or occupational therapist can help you come up with a time frame.

Ask your employer for a copy of their policy on returning to work after sick leave. It is also useful to ask for a copy of the job description for your current role, or any alternative roles that you are considering.

Make sure you keep in touch with your employer. This should help you feel less isolated and ease your worries about returning to work. Talk through your thoughts, concerns and options with someone you trust and who will support you in making your decision to return.

Many employers will be supportive of your return to work. Some employers may lack the knowledge or experience for supporting people back to work after a stroke. Our PDF guide, Complete guide to stroke for employers could be helpful for managers and HR staff to read.

Planning your return to work

When you feel you may be ready to return, your employer should work with you to identify what your needs are and what adjustments they can make to help you.

If you have an occupational therapist, they can talk about the work you were doing before your stroke and help you to set realistic goals about returning. They can advise on aids or equipment that you may need.

Support into work if you have a disability or health condition

Access to Work

Access to Work is a government scheme that provides support in the workplace for people with disabilities. This can include training, equipment and help with travel.

Jobcentre Plus individual support

Jobcentre Plus can give help and advice to job seekers with disabilities and health conditions. A Work Coach gives individual support. They offer Individual Personalised Employment Support (IPES) which is one-to-one support and training to help you to work. Read more on the GOV.UK website.

Create a return-to-work plan

Returning to work doesn’t necessarily mean returning to the same job with the same roles and responsibilities. Even if you can no longer do exactly the same role you did before, there may still be other options to explore.

A return-to-work plan is a plan of action that details someone’s support needs following a stroke. Planning for your return and looking at how you will manage the effects of the stroke means you are more likely to stay in work once you return.

What should it contain?

  • Information about the effects of your stroke.

  • Your tasks.

  • Hours of work.

  • Reviews.

  • Communicating the stroke to team members.

  • Breaks.

  • Time off for appointments.

Your rights at work

Disability discrimination

Disability discrimination is against the law. It happens when an employee is treated less favourably due to their disability. This treatment might be direct and obvious, or it may be the result of a policy that appears equal but actually disadvantages some groups. For example, requiring everyone to enter a building via stairs may be indirect discrimination.

Harassment and victimisation can be viewed as types of discrimination, if they are linked to a disability.

Disability leave

Some employers have a disability leave policy which allows employees to take paid leave related to their disability, such as for treatment or rehabilitation. This is separate from sickness absence. Disability leave is treated as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010, and employers are not obliged to offer it.

Find out how your employer treats absence due to disability. This should be in the staff handbook, or you can ask your line manager or a trade union representative, if you have one.

If disability leave is not available in your workplace, time off for medical appointments may be considered a reasonable adjustment.

Reasonable Adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 states that a disability should not stop someone from working or having the same rights and access to opportunities as other people.

A reasonable adjustment is a change to the workplace or the way a disabled person does their job in order to allow them to work. This may mean:

  • Changing work times.

  • Transferring to another post.

  • Providing specialist equipment to help with certain tasks.

If things are not going well

Here are some tips if you feel you’re not doing well at work or getting the support you need.

  • Speak to your line manager or occupational health advisor. See if they can suggest any further reasonable adjustments.

  • Ask for a re-assessment from your NHS occupational therapist or from Access to Work.

If you feel that you’re not getting the reasonable adjustments or other support you need at work, try to get some individual advice. Speak to a trade union representative if you have one. If not, Acas can help with work-related disputes.

Income protection for self-employed people

If you are self-employed, you might have an insurance policy which offers to provide some kind of payment or income if you are seriously ill. Most policies cover some types of ill health but not others. For example, most cover stroke but many do not cover stress. Many illness insurance policies have a waiting period before you can make a claim. Contact your policy provider to find out what you are entitled to.

Changing careers and volunteering

If you decide not to continue in the job or occupation you were doing before your stroke, it may be possible to stay at the same company but retrain or change roles. You might take some time to look at your options and consider a career change.

Explore the different options that are available to you with the help of a Work Coach or IPES (Individual personalised employment support) at Jobcentre Plus.

Free careers advice is available at the National Careers Service website.

Re-thinking your options

If you decide to start job-hunting, see it as an opportunity to choose a new career.

Don’t feel limited by your previous job roles: think the unthinkable! Play with new ideas about what you wish to do.

There are many types of courses and qualifications available. These include introductory courses or formal qualifications such as an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or a university degree. You can sometimes do a taster course to see if you enjoy the subject and like the place you are studying in.

Volunteering

If you don’t wish to go back into paid work or don’t feel ready, volunteering can be a great way to keep active and build your confidence.

How volunteering can help you:

  • Lets you explore new hobbies and interests.

  • Helps build new skills or develop skills you haven’t used in a while.

  • Allows you to meet new people.

Information

Other resources

Stroke Association Helpline
Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Email: helpline@stroke.org.uk
Contact us for information about stroke, emotional support and details of local services and support groups.

Rights, legal help and benefits

Acas operates in England, Wales and Scotland.
Helpline: 0300 123 1100
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. If things go wrong they help by providing conciliation to resolve workplace problems.

Disability Law Service
Tel: 020 7791 9800
Provides access to free advice on legal topics, including employment, for people with disabilities and their carers.

Disability Confident
This replaces the Two Ticks scheme. Employers can sign up to be Disability Confident. They take part in training and activities to improve the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. Resources and advice about disability and employment are available on the website.

Disability Rights UK
Tel: 020 7250 8181
Information and individual advice about benefits and government schemes that are available. It also provides disability confidence training for employers.

Support with job-seeking and in the workplace

Ability Net
Helpline: 0800 269 545
Ability Net provides information and advice on how people can use technology to achieve their goals in work or education. They have developed Clear Talents, a free tool to help you and your employer identify reasonable adjustments.

Access to Work
Tel: 0800 121 7479
textphone: 0800 121 7579

Access to Work in England, Wales and Scotland.
Tel: 0800 121 7479
textphone: 0800 121 7579

Access to Work (NI) in Northern Ireland
This scheme provides practical advice and funding for disabled people to allow them to find or stay in work. It offers an initial assessment of the workplace and the employee’s tasks. The advisor makes recommendations for additional support such as adapted equipment, one-to-one coaching, or a support worker. The scheme can also help with transport to work. You get a grant to pay for the support you need. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and will not affect your other benefits.

Jobcentre Plus
The online careers and job-seeking guide from Jobcentre Plus. Offers advice on looking for work and skills such as applying for jobs online. To find a local Jobcentre Plus use the postcode finder on gov.uk/contact-jobcentre-plus.

National Careers Service (England)
This site has a free skills assessment tool plus tips on career-changing, training and access to individual careers advice.

Remploy
Tel: 0300 456 8110
Email: employmentservices.osc@remploy.co.uk
Remploy operates in England, Wales and Scotland. Remploy supports people to find sustainable employment in a wide range of roles with many of the UK’s top employers.

Other organisations and guidance for employers

Different Strokes
Tel: 0345 103 7172
Different Strokes supports younger str survivors with information, support groups and fitness activities.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Information for employers about their duties under the law and making reasonable adjustments.

EHRC Information for employers in Scotland
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Disclaimer: The Stroke Association provides the details of other organisations for information only. Inclusion on My Stroke Guide does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement.