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Back to work after a long illness

Back to work after a long illness

Returning to work after a long illness can be a complicated process. Indeed the heaviness of the care, the length of the stop, the suffering crossed upset a number of benchmarks:the physical, the mental, the self-confidence, the relationship with others, at work... For the return to work to take place in the best possible conditions, it is important to be aware of the impact of the chronic disease on professional activity, to rely on the interlocutors offering support and to know the mechanisms facilitating reintegration into employment.

What is the impact of chronic illness when returning to work?

The changes caused by the onset of the disease, the lived experience often significantly change our view of the world and in particular the world of work.

Sometimes the priorities, the values ​​change completely and some approach the work with more distance. Others, on the contrary, redouble their demands. These demands inherent in their state of stress (fear of not succeeding, fear of the way others look, guilt in the face of their colleagues' work overload) are at the origin of an excessive investment which is not favorable to their health in the short or long term.

It is therefore important to be accompanied psychologically before and during this return and after, so as not to be either in excess of overinvestment too early or inappropriately postponing the return. To be accompanied by a psychologist is both to set new objectives, to mobilize one's resources but also to learn to detach oneself from the gaze, attitude or possible gossip of others and to manage one's anger, disappointment or even own maladaptive thoughts…

A few days before and the day before your recovery anyway, relax as much as possible, do everything to see things in a positive way.

In summary, it is important to be accompanied. This accompaniment can be done in different ways, with different stakeholders, especially since the situations vary from one person to another and everyone reacts differently.

How to prepare for your return to the company

Contacts (if any) with the company during the shutdown

Keep in touch with colleagues is an asset for a successful return, in order, among other things, to find out about the evolution of the work context or the evolution of positions. In addition, informal contacts with the work collective can provide emotional support.

In addition, a long-term absence can put you in a position of uncertainty, even worry, to organize your personal and professional life (calculation of rights to paid leave the year after the resumption, salary and contractual repercussions, legal possibilities to return on a part-time basis, for example for therapeutic reasons, resource persons who can help prepare for their return, etc.). TheHuman Resources Department allows you to benefit from useful information on the company, possible procedures and assistance, training, legal aspects...

Finally, indicating to the employer the date of the recovery allows him to anticipate the return.

Apart from private exchanges between colleagues, contacts can only be made at the initiative of the employee , the employer not being authorized to contact people on sick leave.

The return date

Properly assessing his state of health is difficult. Sometimes it is measured in an optimistic way before, and after a day of work, the return to reality can be brutal or even experienced as a useless failure.
Conversely, the return to work can be delayed by fears related to questions like, "Am I going to make it?" "How will my colleagues, my manager react?" ". A wait-and-see attitude can accentuate already existing apprehensions.

A first meeting with the manager, the team and then a gradual return (therapeutic half-time for example) in many cases allows a successful return to work.

The necessary efforts, the time to definitively take over the reins of your position, if your health allows it, must be organized in time, hence the importance of thinking about scheduling arrangements and not resuming too soon. .

Note:The law provides that any employee suffering from a Long-Term Condition recognized by the compulsory health insurance benefits from authorizations of absence for the medical treatments made necessary by their state of health. It is therefore possible to return to work when care is still needed.

How is going back to work?

Reintegration into employment

The reintegration after a sick leave of the fit employee is a right. It must take place, as a priority, in his previous employment. It is only if the latter no longer exists or is no longer available that it can be done in a similar or equivalent job with the same level of remuneration, the same qualification and the same career prospects as the job. initial.

To be "similar", the position in question must not entail, in relation to this previous position, a modification of an essential element of the contract such as remuneration or qualification, including when the employee is bound by a mobility (this clause being limited to the change of place of work).

Workstation layouts

The occupational physician may recommend:

  • Workstation adjustments and adaptations
  • Reclassification recommendations;
  • Vocational training to be organized in order to facilitate the reclassification of the worker or his professional reorientation.

To this end, it relies, if necessary, on the labor social service of the inter-company occupational health service or on that of the company. Unless the worker objects, he informs the employer and the medical advisor of his recommendations so that all measures are implemented to promote the worker's continued employment.

The attending physician may prescribe a return to work on a part-time basis for therapeutic reasons, which is advocated:

  • or when remaining at work, returning to work and the work performed are recognized by a doctor as being likely to promote the improvement of the state of health,
  • or that re-education or vocational rehabilitation is necessary to find a job compatible with the state of health.

Therapeutic part-time work can only be implemented if the occupational physician gives a favorable opinion and an agreement is reached with the employer on the distribution of working hours and the remuneration paid.

The salary can be supplemented by daily allowances (IJ) subject to the agreement of the health insurance medical adviser.

Note: the implementation of therapeutic part-time can take place at the time of recovery or later depending on the evolution of the state of health.


Whether or not to return to work after a long illness or an accident… when you are an employee. France Assos Santé (2016)
Sick leave:return to work of the employee – Public service, official site of the French administration (verified on 1 st January 2020)
Preparing for a return to work after an illness or accident – ​​Caisse d'Assurance Maladie (accessed January 20, 2020)
Returning to work after cancer:a struggle – League Against Cancer (accessed January 20, 2020)
Site of the association "The day after" (accessed January 20, 2020)
Diabetes and Work Guide (2019) (accessed January 20 2020)
Labour Code (consulted on January 20, 2020)