Return-to-Work Following Depression: What Work Accommodations Do Employers and Human Resources Directors Put in Place?

J Occup Rehabil. 2019 Jun;29(2):423-432. doi: 10.1007/s10926-018-9801-y.


The magnitude of economic and social costs related to common mental disorders has a profound impact on the workplace. Returning to work following depression is, therefore, a major issue for all stakeholders involved (employee, employer, human resources director, union, physician, etc.). Considering their role in the organization, Human Resources Directors (HRD) and employers have a decisive impact on the return-to-work (RTW) process. Purpose This study aims to determine which RTW accommodations are implemented, following depression, by one of the central stakeholders: HRD and employers. Methods 219 HRD/employers participated in a semi-structured telephone interview about RTW of employees after depression. From that interview, the question related to this article was: Do you put in place work accommodations for employees after a sick leave due to depression (yes or no)? If their response was positive, we asked: If yes, what were the work accommodations? Results 170 HRD/employers specified accommodations. The most common categories identified were related to: work schedule, task modifications, job change and work environment change. Accommodations directly related to the employee or the colleagues were considerably less mentioned and those concerning other RTW stakeholders, including supervisor, were almost absent. Conclusion Our results suggest that accommodations directly related to work aspects seemed to predominate in our sample of HRD/employers when an employee returned-to-work following depression. The relational aspect and the involvement of the different stakeholders are also not prioritized to accommodate the RTW. These results contrast with employer best practice guidelines for the RTW of workers with common mental disorders.

Keywords: Depression; Disability leave; Employer; Return to work; Work accommodation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / organization & administration
  • Qualitative Research
  • Return to Work*
  • Workplace / organization & administration*
  • Young Adult

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