Time Off

How to return to work after an extended leave of absence

Sep 16, 2021
min read

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), employees are entitled to protected, unpaid leaves of absence. But returning to work after a leave is a different process for every professional and it can feel overwhelming depending on your situation. 

So, here are some tips for a smooth transition back to work. 

Five tips for returning after a leave of absence

1. Provide your employer with a return date

The ESA has rules about when to notify your employer about your return to work. For example, you must give your employer written notice at least 4 weeks before you intend to return to work after maternity leave or parental leave, and the notice must state your planned return date. However, these dates vary and your company may provide advanced benefits in exchange for advanced notice.  

As your employer could allow more leeway, check with your HR department about their policies prior to taking your leave. Our friends at Indeed have a great step-by-step guide to writing your own return to work letter, as well as a template. 

2. Schedule your return for midweek

The first week back has the potential to be exhausting, especially if you’ve been out of work for a while. 

If you’re able to, return to work on a Wednesday. A shorter work week will allow you to ease the transition back into the office and can help work out any kinks. You will also be that much closer to the weekend where you can rest and think about how those first two days went, so you can make adjustments before your first full week.

3. Organize accommodations, if necessary

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, your employer has an obligation to accommodate you in all stages of work reintegration, to ensure you can do your job and remain in the workplace. 

The WSIB can order your employer to accommodate you in your return to work – this may include workstation readjustments, technical aids, changes in work schedules, or job redesign. Your employer can only refuse to accommodate you if they prove that it would result in undue hardship.

If you don’t feel you can return to work full-time right away, speak to your employer about flextime for the first little while. And if your workplace isn’t completely remote right now or in the future, ask for temporary remote work as you get back into the groove of things.

4. Get re-onboarded 

In some cases, accommodation might not be necessary. But that doesn’t mean you should immediately be expected to leap back into your former routine. 

It is your employer’s responsibility to catch you up on what’s changed since you’ve been away. It may be useful to ask them to prepare a status document covering key projects, as well as any internal changes to policies and procedures to get you up to speed quickly. 

It could also be the case that you took a leave when your company was remote and they’ve since returned to the office. You might need to be re-onboarded: The process of onboarding employees who were hired remotely into the physical workplace. This may include an office tour, special social events, and extra training for in-office tech.

5. Set realistic personal goals

Like we mentioned, returning to work after a leave of absence has the potential to be tough. That’s why it’s not only important to know your rights and responsibilities when making the transition, but to set realistic personal goals. Be honest with yourself in what you’re capable of taking on right away and work with your employer to get back into routine. 

We hope these tips are helpful in taking some of the weight off. Cut yourself some slack, you got this.

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Hey there 👋 my name is Andrea Bartlett.

I’m the Director of HR at Humi, and I’m obsessed with all things people and human resources. Throughout my time working in a range of industries, I’ve learned that one thing is clear: the world of work is changing and HR professionals are leading the charge. 

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