Are you ready to go back to work?

Many people return to work within two to three months of a heart attack – though some will need to make adjustments. If your health is under control and your job involves light duties, you may even be able to return within six weeks.1

How soon you’re able to actually return depends on your treatment, recovery or maintenance therapy, and on the type of job you do.

Some roles – such as those in the police force, fire and rescue services – legally require peak physical fitness. In others, such as long-distance driving, you need to be in good health. But  there are plenty of jobs where you can decide with your doctor when you’re fit to go back. 

There are no specific tests before your doctor signs you back to work – it very much depends on you as an individual, and an overall assessment of your progress

Will I get sick pay?

There are two main types of sick pay:2

  - Statutory sick pay is available to any worker, subject to qualifying conditions. Even if you’re self-employed, you may be able to claim sick pay.

- Contractual or company/occupational sick pay is paid by the employer and is more generous – normally the employee’s full salary for a certain period, then reducing it on a sliding scale. For example, 12 weeks at full pay, 12 weeks at 75 per cent, and 12 weeks at 50 per cent. 

After a certain period, your company will need a sickness certificate from your doctor. Find out more about sick pay at https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay.

Managing your finances

If you’re considering other options, such as going back to work part-time, retiring or changing jobs, this may affect your income and your pension. You’ll need to consider the implications carefully. The Money Advice Service is a free, independent Government advice service that can help you manage your finances.You can also find out how much State Pension you should receive at https://www.gov.uk/check-state-pension as well as find information about whether you’re entitled to illness or carer benefits. 

Talking to your employer 

Once you have a clearer idea about how to manage your heart health from your team of health professionals, and you’ve mulled it over with family and friends, it’s time to speak to your employer about your options. You may want to consider:

- Arrange to speak to your manager and try to get them on side by being positive but honest. Let them know what you need and what will help you. Ask questions to find out what’s been going on while you’ve been away.

- Decide what you want to share with colleagues – having their support will help ensure you’re not overloaded.

- You can ask your company’s HR department, or your GP, about having an assessment carried out by an occupational therapist. They can put a ‘return to work’ plan into place if necessary.

- If you’re not able to carry out all the day-to-day tasks you had been doing, then your employer is legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments. This may include considering requests for flexible working or moving you to a less physically demanding role. Find out more at http://fitforwork.org

Applying for a new job

If you decide that it’s time to find a new job, you don’t have to tell your prospective employers about your heart condition during the application process. Employers are not allowed to ask questions about health before offering someone a job, except in exceptional circumstances.

Taking retirement

Retiring can be a positive step and give you more time to indulge in activities you enjoy, try new things or finally take that dream holiday. You may also consider voluntary work see www.do-it.org; or going back to studying – www.hotcourses.co.uk.

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Learning how to manage stress better can help you plan your return to work. Read our tips.