New service launched to help workers return to work after absence

A new free service targeted at helping employers and employees, who may have suffered a serious illness or injury, return to work is now available across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

The ‘Linking In’ service works with workers and employers in the small to medium sized business sector for people who have been absent from work for three weeks or more due to serious injury or illness.

IBEC recently estimated that up to €1.5 billion was being lost to the Irish economy every year through sick days and absenteeism, with businesses and the Government forced to absorb these costs. A considerable number of these days can be lost due to a long term illness or an injury sustained either at or outside work, while long term sick leave can have a detrimental effect on a company’s productivity and on the personal circumstances of the employee with both feeling the strain on a financial level.

The objective of Linking In is to facilitate a return to work by acting as the intermediaryfor the employer, employee and health care professionals. The support can include devising a return-to-work plan, agreeing any required changes to the work environment or responsibilities of the worker, advising on any training required for staff, and assistance in accessing financial supports for employee retention or workplace adaptation.

Employers and healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists and GPs who are targeting a return to work in a patient’s recovery plan, can also use the free Linking In service. The only requirement is that the affected employees must be on illness or injury benefits, but participation in the service does not affect any of these benefits.

One person who has had a positive experience from the programme is Anne from Roscommon, who had been out of work for nearly a year after the jewellers in which she worked made her redundant and closed down.

“I suffered from depression and was on sickness benefit as I struggled to find a way back into employment with my illness. The Linking In programme put in place a plan which included some further training and education in a totally new area where there were job opportunities. Linking In helped me come up with a plan that would allow me get back to work on a phased basis and it’s been going great so far.”

Michael O’Reilly, from Linking In, says Anne’s story is just one example how each person’s circumstances can be different.

“While she was out of work for an extended period of time and needed further training to get her back on the employment ladder, we also work with employees who are out of their job due to an injury or illness and negotiate a plan of return to their original job with their employer.

“Being out sick from work can be a huge source of strain for all parties. and when they are both keen to find a solution it may be seen as too difficult a path to navigate. We are there to give the support to both the employees and the employer to find those solutions and ensure as smooth a transition as possible.”

Linking In is based on the Ground floor, Block 15, Galway Technology Park, Ballybrit, Galway city. This disability activation programme is co-funded by the European Social Fund and the Department of Social Protection.


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