Providing In-Work Support

The things that you can do to successfully support veterans who are wounded, injured or sick in the workplace are the same things that you can be doing to support all of your staff.

Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments describe the support that employers put in place to ensure that employees with disabilities are not disadvantaged in the workplace. They may include the removal of physical barriers, changes to the way work is structured, or additional practical or emotional support. Wounded, injured or sick veterans tell us that often the most important reasonable adjustment an employer could make for them is to give them a chance – to recognise that, given the right support, they can grow into the role and become a very valuable and loyal employee.

Disabilities can be both obvious disabilities, such as limb injuries or spinal cord injuries, or they can be non-obvious injuries, such as mental health problems (including post-traumatic stress) or brain injuries. The kind of adjustments that you might offer to a veteran who is wounded, injured, sick, or is experiencing mental health problems, are the same as you would offer any other employee who is experiencing problems. Workplace adjustments can be temporary (to help someone manage a difficult patch) or permanent. Very few of them will cost you any money, the most that they will require is a bit of creative thinking and a willingness to be flexible. Here are some examples:

  • Making physical changes to the workplace or equipment.
  • Changing working hours to allow easier travel to work.
  • Offering a flexible start time.
  • Providing additional supervision, buddying or mentoring to help build confidence.
  • Offering partitions in an open office to help with concentration.
  • Using headphones to listen to music.
  • Ensuring work areas are in natural light.
  • Agreeing short, more frequent breaks rather than a longer lunch break.

The employers that we work with tell us that the majority of veterans that they employ take less time off work sick than their general workforce, but some people who are experiencing mental or physical health problems might need to take some additional time off. This might be to receive counselling or treatment, or it might be a way for them to manage when they are feeling particularly low. Being flexible and understanding why someone is asking for time off is a great way to support all your staff. When you discuss reasonable adjustments with a member of staff, you may find the following pointers useful:

  • What is the disability or challenge that the individual is experiencing and how does it impact on their work?
  • What adjustments to their equipment, their working environment, the structure of their working day, or the support that they receive will help them to manage their job more effectively?
  • Will those changes impact on colleagues, and if so have colleagues been consulted?
  • Will making the adjustments result in a financial impact on the organisation, and if so, can those costs be met by the organisation? If not, is it possible to secure funding from an external organisation such as Access to Work (gov.uk/access-to-work)
  • How long do you think it may be necessary to have the reasonable adjustments in place?
  • When will you meet to review the arrangements?

 

Good communication

Good communication is key to any successful employer/employee relationship, and when supporting wounded, injured or sick veterans in the workplace, it is even more important. Be clear and direct in your communication and make sure that your employee knows what it is that you want them to achieve. Remember to give lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement. We all like to know when we are doing well. Identifying areas where an individual can improve is also important. When giving feedback to an individual we recommend that you:

  • Find a private space to talk.
  • Identify the goal of your discussion.
  • Stick to the facts – don’t be judgmental or start talking in generalisations, “you always…”
  • Be prepared to give examples of observed behaviour.

And remember, good communication involves listening as well as talking.

Talk about wellbeing

We are all different. Some of us feel more comfortable talking about ourselves than others. But the earlier you can pick up a problem the better. Warning signs that your employee might be having problems include:

  • Changes in their usual behaviour.
  • Poor performance or time keeping.
  • Increased sickness absence.
  • Difficulty in relationships at work.
  • Headaches.
  • Tiredness and irritability.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Over performance.

Ensuring that your staff have regular work planning sessions, and informal chats about their progress helps to create an environment where it becomes easier to broach the subject of wellbeing. Use open questions to give your employee the opportunity to express any concerns. For example:

  • “How are things going at the moment?”
  • “Is there anything I can help you with?”

It is important for all of us to be aware of the early signs that might indicate an individual is experiencing mental distress. Have a look at the list and see which symptoms are relevant to you. You can also use this list to become more aware when your staff might be experiencing problems, but remember, just because they are showing these symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are experiencing mental illness. Possible symptoms of mental distress:

Physical

  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Feeling nauseas
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Feeling tired
  • Having problems sleeping

Psychological

  • Feeling anxious
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Having mood swings
  • Feeling irritable or emotional
  • Feeling forgetful
  • Becoming more sensitive to criticism
  • Feeling as if you are a failure
  • Becoming more cynical and pessimistic
  • Losing interest in things

Behavioural

  • Standard of work drops
  • Behave aggressively
  • Drinking and smoking more heavily
  • Become irritated more easily
  • Become less effective at work
  • Find it more difficult to interact with colleagues
  • Becoming more withdrawn
  • Taking time off sick

If you are concerned about the behaviour of a member of your staff encourage them to speak to their GP or a mental health professional, or if you have access to an occupational health service you may wish to suggest that your member of staff contacts them.

Create a Wellbeing Plan

A wellbeing plan is designed to help people recognise the things that keep them both physically and mentally well, and to help them recognise the early warning signs that they may be becoming unwell. An example of a Wellbeing Plan can be downloaded here.

Useful resources

Fit for Work (www.fitforwork.org)

Provides free, work-related health advice and referral to occupational health professionals for employees who have been or are likely to be off work sick for four weeks or more.

Mindful Employer (www.mindfulemployer.net)

Provides businesses and organisations with easy access to information and support for staff who experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health condition.

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