Returning to work after surgery

Everyone will need some time off work after having an operation, but the length of time will depend upon several factors such as:

  • The type of surgery they have
  • Any underlying medical conditions they may have as well
  • How well they were before surgery
  • The type of work they do

The type of surgery a person has will have an impact on how long they need to have off work. Having a small operation on your wrist for example will require less time than a total hip replacement. However, it does depend upon the job role too. Someone who works with their hands, must lift or use a computer may need longer to recover before they can return to work.

Underlying medical conditions can be affected by having surgery and could potentially increase the length of time off work. They may need to spend longer in hospital and their recovery may be more complicated.

If people have emergency surgery, they may be acutely unwell before surgery and their recovery may take longer as their body will need to recover from the illness that led up to the surgery. Even with planned surgery, if someone has been immobile prior to surgery it may take longer for them to regain their mobility again.

The type of work someone does plays a big role in when they are fit to return to work, especially if there are safety implications for the employee, the rest of your staff and members of the public.

So how can you manage the return of an employee following surgery? Their surgeon or GP will give them advice on how long they would expect them to be away from work. However, the advice is often generic and not considering the role of the employee or that you as an employer may be able to offer alternative roles or reduced hours. The employee may not have informed the GP or surgeon what their job fully entails. There will be some employees who are desperate to return, and you need to make sure that they are fit enough.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to this. The Royal College of Surgeons does have some information on their website however their advice will not be tailored to your work environment or your business needs.

Occupational Health Professionals are qualified and experts in the field of Occupational Medicine. They know your workplace and can offer a professional impartial opinion on someone’s fitness for work.

Find out more about our Occupational Health and Health Surveillance services.