Background: Workplace absenteeism is still a curse for developed countries, and more systematic practices need to be adopted to address this issue.
Objective: To review the literature on best practices for managing work absences related to musculoskeletal or common mental disorders.
Methods: A review was conducted by performing a search in bibliographic databases and on work-disability research institute websites. Recommendations regarding work-absence management and return-to-work practices were extracted from all the retained documents and organized within a chronological framework.
Results: In total, 17 documents were analyzed, leading to identification of common work-absence management and return-to-work practices, the importance of a worker support approach, and recommended roles and responsibilities for stakeholders. These practices were then integrated into a six-step process: (1) time off and recovery period; (2) initial contact with the worker; (3) evaluation of the worker and his job tasks; (4) development of a return-to-work plan with accommodations; (5) work resumption, and (6) follow-up of the return-to-work process.
Conclusions: Based on this review, we constructed a comprehensive work-absence management and return-to-work process designed to assist organizations. Our results indicate that such a process must be included within a broader policy of health promotion and job retention. Adaptations will be required for implementation in the workplace.
Keywords: Absenteeism; mental illness; organizational policy; pain; work disability.