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Integrating back into work after an Acquired Brain Injury

03 June 2019

Following knowledge of an acquired brain injury, there are a lot of factors for the injured person to consider and to contend with. First and foremost is their health and their recovery. However, as time passes it soon becomes clear that the road to recovery will be long and that often a full recovery to their pre-accident health may not be possible. People with brain injuries are often left with deficits and it becomes a case of adjusting and learning to cope with them.

A brain injury can impact all aspects of a person’s life and those around them. One aspect of particular concern to most is their employment, career and future job prospects.

A brain injury can often mean that sufferers struggle with the following symptoms:

  • Cognitive Difficulties;
  • Memory issues;
  • Headaches;
  • Executive functioning difficulties;
  • Hearing Loss;
  • Visual Problems;
  • Word finding difficulties;
  • Fatigue;
  • Emotional outbursts;
  • Anger issues;
  • Anxiety;
  • Seizures;

These are just some of the symptoms that can make it difficult to work in most environments. Sufferers of a brain injury are often concerned about their ability to return to work at all and this worry often hinders their recovery and can have a severe psychological impact.

According to a study (van Velzen et al 2009) following a traumatic brain injury a mean average of 12% of the study group were in employment 3 months post accident and at the 2 year mark this had increased to a mean of 41% in employment. They commented specifically on the need for vocational rehabilitation to assist sufferers.

In accordance with the Equality Act (2010) employers have a duty to accommodate for the needs of a disabled employee and be able to show that they have made “reasonable adjustments” within the workplace to accommodate the sufferer. However, what is considered “reasonable” varies on a case by case basis and often the sort and extent of the adjustments that an employer can carry out depends on the role of the employee and the nature of the employment. In most cases the biggest hurdle is understanding the requirements of the employee in the workplace.

We have seen it at both ends of the scale, whereby some employers work hard to accommodate their employees’ limitations by ensuring that they have the time off they need, that their workload is altered and often lessened for a time, or that a phased return is put into place. Often occupational health, therapy and ergonomic assessments are carried out to identify what the individual needs in the workplace, ensuring that the environment and conditions of the role are suitable for the employees’ changing physical and cognitive wellbeing are addressed.

On the other end of the scale, we see clients who work for smaller scale ventures have less access to this sort of support. Whilst they are still obliged to consider the needs of the employee, the burden of what is “reasonable” is lessened. Those employers who fail to engage or whom do not often have the resources to hand will often have to let the employee go if they are not able to return to work in the specified time. The individual is then faced with the financial burden and pressure of not being at work and unemployed on top of dealing with their recovery.

An individual suffering from a brain injury and faced with unemployment will be disadvantaged on the labour market when they look for future employment due to their changing needs. Often clients cite the concern about their future employment, and the fear of being unemployed as their number one concern as an impact of an accident on them.

We have seen that clients who benefit from the right sort of support and encouragement from their employer often have a more positive outlook towards their future employment which can be self-prophesising. A client who knows that their conditions and symptoms are understood and that allowances have been made can focus on their recovery and return to employment a lot sooner.

We aim to get clients treatment as soon as possible to increase the likelihood that they can return to work and their chances of future employment. We try to obtain vocational assessments through a client’s rehabilitation in the hope that this will assist them in finding a job role that they are able and willing to do and to identify what needs to be considered to allow them to do that role, for example, re-training, adaptations in the workplace or flexible working hours.

By Hannah Nelmes

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For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 464222 or alternatively email enquiries@barlowrobbins.com