DWP - creating a mental health fit for work plan


04 / 11 / 2010

The organisation

What we did and why

How we did it

Results and next steps

Tips for other organisations



The organisation

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is a Government department responsible for welfare and pension policy. It is the biggest public service delivery department in the UK and serves over 20 million customers.


What we did and why

A DWP employee with a customer-facing role was badly assaulted in a street robbery, which was unconnected to work, and sustained severe physical injuries that required emergency hospital treatment.  The employee was unable to return to work after the incident as a result of her physical injuries.

A weekly keep in touch telephone call was set up between the employee and her manager, but after 28 days the manager took the additional step of holding a formal, face-to-face, long-term sickness review.

From the information gathered during the keep in touch calls, review contacts and the organisation's occupational health process, it was apparent that the employee had recovered from her physical injuries. However, the issues preventing her from returning to work were psychological. 

Some key areas of worry for the employee and her return to work were:

• She was not looking forward to the attention she would receive from her colleagues on her return to work.
• She was concerned at not being able to cope with the normal workload.
• She felt vulnerable and was very worried about working in an open plan office and having face-to-face contact with customers.

The manager and the employee then agreed to work together to create an initial fit for work plan, which was designed to:

• gradually re-establish links to work
• refresh her technical knowledge both before and after the planned return to work date
• ensure the employee was not pressured and had ongoing support
• reintegrate her into her customer-facing role.


How we did it

The fit for work plan's goals were:

• Re-establish firmer links with work and colleagues.
• Overcome fears associated with returning to frontline work.
• Finalise return to work.
• On return to work, plan a gradual increase in hours to return to full time duties.

Actions to achieve the goals:

• The manager would send important work-related reading material to the employee
• To arrange for the employee to meet with colleagues in smaller groups at lunch time or at a social event.
• The employee would attend a team planning event
• The employee would complete a course of counselling
• Re-locate the employee's workstation close to the entrance of a secure staff area and near to her manager’s desk, so that they could be close to hand in case of any problems
• Purchase a personal security alarm

Once the employee returned to work it was agreed:

• to use a phased return during the first two weeks, by starting with 5 hour days and gradually increasing to 7.24 hours
• to appoint a colleague/friend as a mentor
• to check that all arrangements for relocation of workstation/computer were in place
• to arrange refresher training in her role
• to put in place a contingency arrangement, allowing the employee to hand work to colleagues if she felt unable to cope at any point
• to gradually increase the number of interviews conducted by the employee, ensuring contingency cover arrangements were in place
• to ensure all stress risk assessment processes were followed and up to date
• the manager would review progress weekly with the employee
• the manager would seek management support to discuss any identified problems
• to arrange a workstation risk assessment
• to consider the need for further training, for example personal safety or handling difficult situations.

Key dates were agreed for the implementation of the goals, and the manager and employee identified who would be responsible for the implementation of each action point. Key dates for reviewing the goals were also agreed and an ongoing summary was devised  for reporting on progress.



• The meetings between the employee and team colleagues outside of the office on lunchtimes and at social events were a great success.
• Following on from counselling, the employee showed increased confidence  after returning to work and was interacting well with colleagues and managers.
• The mentor input was invaluable in helping the employee build up her confidence to its previous levels.


Tips for other organisations

• Work closely with the employee and jointly agree upon a fit for work plan to facilitate a speedy return to work that ensures the employee’s health and well-being.

• Establish and keep regular contact to review the fit for work plan goals.



Julian Topping
NHS Employers
Programme lead - health work and well-being
0113 306 3012


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