Look at going back to work as part of your recovery, rather than the end of your recovery. 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. Think about a phased return, this means a gradual return to work starting off part-time and building up to full time hours, to ease back into work gently.
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Travelling to work can be tiring. You might need support with the journey if you have a physical disability or sight loss. You could try the journey on a non-work day to find out how you manage. You could also ask to work from home some of the time. This could be a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to help you back to work.
After a stroke, by law you are not allowed to drive for a minimum of one month. After that, depending on the type of stroke you had, your type of disability and the kind of driving licence you hold, you may be able to start driving again. Some people might not be able to drive for a longer period or can lose their licence.
If you used to drive for a living, such as a taxi or a heavy goods vehicle, this will directly affect the work you can do and you might need support with career changing and job seeking. Visit our page on changing careers and volunteering for ideas on ways to get support and advice.
If you can no longer drive to work, you'll need to find alternatives such as working from home, or finding support with travel, such as funding from Access to Work, and free or discounted public transport.
Visit our page ‘Driving after stroke’ for further information.
What do I need to do?
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. If you're employed, your employer may have an occupational health service to help staff back to work after illness. You may be able to get access to a specialist vocational rehabilitation professional through your employer or local authority. Speak to your occupational therapist, employer or GP to find out more.
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 jobseekers 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 into work. Find out more on the GOV.UK website.
To find a local Jobcentre Plus use the GOV.UK postcode finder.
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. It's important that you think about whether your expectations, skills and stamina match up to the work you want to do.
What is a return-to-work plan?
This is a plan of action that details someone’s support needs following a stroke. Planning for your return and looking at how you'll manage the effects of the stroke means you're more likely to stay in work once you return.
What should it contain?
- Information about the effects of your stroke: you don’t need to go into lots of medical detail, just a summary of the effects of the stroke. Look at each effect in turn and think about practical steps you can take to address each one.
- Your tasks: the focus should be on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Take a look at your job description with your line manager or human resources officer. Talk about the tasks you can do to start with, and what you feel you could work up to later. Try to think about practical solutions to things that might be difficult for you, such as using equipment or lifting objects. Share your ideas with your employer and try to work together to come up with solutions.
- Hours of work: you could look at the option of phasing your return. This means starting part-time and gradually increasing the number of hours and days you work. Think about what may work best for you, such as starting later if you need longer to get up and out of the house. You may need longer breaks to help you manage any fatigue.
- Review: regular reviews are important to help you see how you're managing your tasks. They also let your employer feed back about how they feel things are going. Think about how this will take place, and agree the time frame and expectations. It could be informal, such as 20 minutes every week with your line manager. Keep some brief notes of each meeting.
Communicating the stroke to team members
"I loved my job, I just wanted to get back to it after my stroke. I was also a mum with a family to support. It was hard to adjust to different tasks but easing my way in meant I could cope with the fatigue." Nadia, stroke survivor.
You can help decide how to share information about your stroke with other members of staff. You may choose not to tell them you've had a stroke, just that you'll return part-time and that your tasks have changed. Another option is an email could be sent to your team from your line manager, with text that has been agreed by you.
Time off for appointments
If you need time off for hospital appointments or therapy, bring this up early on and get it agreed with your employer. Some employers have a disability leave policy. This can allow you some time off to go to appointments connected to a disability. It's one of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that employers can make to support people with disabilities. Visit ’Your rights at work’ page for more information about reasonable adjustments.
Take a flexible approach
While you’re still recovering from a stroke, new effects can emerge over time. You might find that the support you need changes too. You might need less or more support with certain things. If you're having regular meetings with your manager, you can talk about these changes and how they're affecting your work.
You can talk about the things you find difficult, and also let them know if you're feeling ready to take on more or different tasks. This doesn’t have to be a formal meeting, it can be over a cup of coffee for half an hour on a Friday to see how the week has gone. It can be a good idea to keep brief notes and summarise any actions. Either you or your manager can make the notes, but make sure you agree to them.
Keep a diary
This can be very simple: just a log of any key dates such as when you took on more or different tasks and how they went. This can help you to see how you're progressing and re-build your confidence.
Talking to colleagues about your stroke
You may be understandably nervous about how colleagues will react to you and the fact you had a stroke.
Remember it’s your choice whether you discuss your stroke with colleagues. Sometimes being open and answering questions can help people to understand and be more supportive.
Don’t be embarrassed or apologise for the effects of your stroke. It can help your colleagues if you explain what a stroke is and how it has affected you, particularly if the effects are ‘invisible’.
“I was often told I didn’t look like I’d had a stroke. I could tell my team were wondering why I was doing such reduced tasks. I think telling them would've helped them to understand my memory problems and educated them a bit about stroke.” Harvinder, stroke survivor.
- It’s important to have open, regular communication with your employer.
- Talk to your employer about having a designated person or "buddy" (not necessarily your line manager) who can support you on a day-to-day basis.
- Some stroke survivors struggle to talk about their difficulties or may not wish to. Remember it can be difficult for your employer to understand ‘hidden problems’ such as fatigue.
- Try to remain open, and encourage your employer to do the same.
- Ask them to be as supportive and patient as they can.
- Talk to other stroke survivors
Hearing how others overcame barriers to return to work and sharing your experiences with others of a similar age can help you deal with feelings of isolation. It can also give you ideas on what to do if you experience similar problems. Contact the Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 to find out about support in your area.
Find out more information about getting back to work after stroke.