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Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 22 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Returning To Work Depression Work

Two-thirds of us will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in our lives and it can be even more devastating when it forces us to take a lengthy absence from work.

Work often plays one of the largest roles in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and if we have been absent for some time due to anxiety or depression the fact that we are not working often adds to our feelings of a lack of self-worth. However, once we are on the right road to recovery, going back to work is often one of the most important factors in speeding up our return to full health. It provides us with a support network and is an opportunity to regain our sense of self-esteem and puts some routine and stability back into our lives.

Caring and Understanding Employers

Mental illness can strike anybody at any time and can have devastating consequences on the sufferer themselves and for those around them, be it work colleagues or family members. A sufferer’s personality can be transformed and it’s sometimes hard to know how to relate to them. However, it’s important to realise that, once recovered, the worker still has a lot to offer to the company, just as they did before illness struck.

An understanding and caring employer can help a lot in this respect. Rallying round with other colleagues to assist in the sufferer’s return not only will create a support network for the sufferer but will boost morale amongst other workers by showing that the employer cares about the consequences of mental illness which, as mentioned, can hit anybody at any time. This removes the barriers and breaks down any stigma attached to mental illness. It’s also important for employer’s to realise that the skills, knowledge and experience of the sufferer have not gone away. They’ve simply been ill.

Helping the Sufferer

The person returning to work may require an ‘easing back in’ to the working environment. As with other long-term sickness absences, it’s often a good idea to allow them to come back to work gradually – maybe part-time or a couple of days a week or even to offer them Flexible Working arrangements. This can help the sufferer find their feet again gradually without too much pressure.

Obviously, the situation will vary between people. Some will require a lot of support and flexibility when they return, whilst others may want to play the whole thing down and just get on with it as they used to, so they may want less fuss to be made and a more subtle approach to be implemented. Therefore, it’s always important to establish how best the employer can ease the return to work so that both they and the rest of the staff know just what is expected of them in terms of trying to make the return to work as painless and as easy as possible. The best way to do this is by talking with the sufferer before they plan to return.

From the sufferer’s perspective, if they have any specific needs, e.g. they may need time off to attend out-patient clinics, or perhaps they’re not able to do their job in exactly the same way as they did it before they became ill, they should express their concerns to their employer before they go back so that any arrangements can be put in place to make for a smooth return.

Communication, flexibility, understanding and a good support network are the most important aspects of managing an employee’s return to work following a lengthy absence due to anxiety, depression or some other kind of mental illness and it’s up to employers to take that on board or risk losing a valuable member of staff.

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Hi, I have been of work for 5 weeks due to anxiety caused by lack of training and support from the company I work for. I came back to work on the 13th of February to be told that all my accounts have been taken off me and I would have to start from the began. Until I build my new customer accounts up I am losing £500 a month in commission, while my colleagues are getting this commission for the work I have done. can they do this?
chris83 - 22-Feb-17 @ 8:47 AM
Hi I've been off work for 6months now due to stress depression and anxiety I recived a letter from my manager asking me to go in for a meeting they havnt been very supportive through it aat all do a bit worried ehat will be said. I've got a bad feeling there going to dismiss me can they do that ? Thankyou
Tez - 18-Feb-17 @ 7:26 PM
Hi, I've been on sick for 3 months, for anxiety s repression. I went back to work 2 wks ago and today my manager and other boss got me into the office. I take telephone calls and my employer told me to listen to a recorded message of me on phone, saying I wasn't saying right phone manner.. but I answer 60 calls a day and do my job good. I feel like I'm bullied at work and feel down again What to do
Burrows - 9-Feb-17 @ 10:01 PM
Hi, this will be my third week of phased return after a 7 week absence for anxiety and low mood. My senior manager has been kind and let me choose my shifts, my line manager has changed them without my knowledge. Part of my anxiety was due to childcare issues, he has now put my on days I have no childcare. I have been to occupation health and they are supporting me to get the set days I can work. I don't feel strong enough at the moment to challenge home. In the past he has done this to me eg not given me my annual leave I have requested and changed my days. Help please.
TC - 23-Jan-17 @ 9:02 AM
Hi I have been of work with depression and anxity for a year due to bullying at work I returned last year under a new manager and team and everything was gone I started fresh keeper my head down and cracked on with my work . But after about 7 months in to my role I asked for a meeting between my manager and me . Me and my manager get a little hot headed some times so I always ask to recorde or get a witness but this time it was me and him and he pushed me. I put a grievance in and it was dropped to lack of evidence.I then went sick with a cold/flu and on return had a sars meeting / return to work . There was a note taker and within the conversation he admitted to putting his hands on me . I have put a grevience in again but not to sore what to doe with my anxity and depression in the past as it all to much
Robot 68 - 5-Dec-16 @ 8:38 PM
Mi37 - Your Question:
Hi, I'm sorry to bother you but I think I need help.I was signed off work a about a month ago for depression and have been on anti-depressants. I was worried about losing my job so went back to work on Thursday last week but found myself getting upset with stupid things like seeing my work jacket had been taken off my chair and screwed up down beside my desk and that a small toy had been taken from my desk. Stupid but it made me feel really sad. I cried quite a bit over the weekend but forced myself into work on monday this week. I received an email from my line manager saying that my apdr(appraisal) was due and to let him know when I was available to talk. I replied saying I was free all afternoon but could he call me on my mobile because there is no privacy in the room where I work. He phone the desk phone saying there was no need for a private conversation and the proceeded to tell me that he was scoring me below average because I had let everyone down by being off so much, that although I had done overtime to catch up on work it had been a drain on finances and I had cost the scheme money and that he needes to point out that my current skill set is now pretty much obsolete in the company. He probably said some positive stuff too but I have no recollection. He then said oh how are you by the way? I suppose I should have started with that!I left work on Monday feeling that everything I had been feeling about myself was right, I was a let down, useless and everyone would be better off with out me. I've spent the whole time fighting with the desire to just end it. I should be in work but I can't face talking to anyone there.I feel sick to my stomach with just the thoughtof having to communicate with anyone there. What am I supposed to do now because I dont see how I can return to work.

Our Response:
You really need to talk to someone individually about this. If you don't have a family member or friend who you think can help, try SupportLine.org.uk, they have a confidential telephone helpline 01708 765200,or AnxietyUK.org.ukwhich also has a helpline: 08444 775 774
SafeWorkers - 10-Nov-16 @ 10:25 AM
Hi, I'm sorry to bother you but i think i need help. I was signed off work a about a month ago for depression and have been on anti-depressants. I was worried about losing my job so went back to work on Thursday last week but found myself getting upset with stupid things like seeing my work jacket had been taken off my chair and screwed up down beside my desk and that a small toy had been taken from my desk. Stupid but it made me feel really sad. I cried quite a bit over the weekend but forced myself into work on monday this week. I received an email from my line manager saying that my apdr(appraisal) was due and to let him know when i was available to talk. I replied saying i was free all afternoon but could he call me on my mobile because there is no privacy in the room where i work. He phone the desk phone saying there was no need for a private conversation and the proceeded to tell me that he was scoring me below average because i had let everyone down by being off so much, that although i had done overtime to catch up on work it had been a drain on finances and i had cost the scheme money and that he needes to point out that my current skill set is now pretty much obsolete in the company. He probably said some positive stuff too but i have no recollection. He then said oh how are you by the way? I suppose i should have started with that! I left work on Monday feeling that everything i had been feeling about myself was right, i was a let down, useless and everyone would be better off with out me. I've spent the whole time fighting with the desire to just end it. I should be in work but i can't face talking to anyone there. I feel sick to my stomach with just the thoughtof having to communicate with anyonethere. What am i supposed to do now because i dont see how i can return to work.
Mi37 - 9-Nov-16 @ 12:32 PM
I was admitted at the psychiatrist hospital February this year for 21 years due to depression and was given treatment that I should take for 6 months.I even tried committing suicide because of stress caused by my employer.So I asked my GP to help me with a letter stating that I should be moved from the job I was doing and do another job cos am not getting better and the employer is still mistreating me but the employer refuses to transfer me .the union reported my case to conciliation but we did not resolve the issue with my employer now My Psychiatrist has written the second letter telling them to move me due to treatment not working am still on treatment since February and am stating to hate my manager and even scared to drive work cars as am a field worker.pls help me .case was taken to arbitration but their lawyer said that is not the platform to deal with the case .Plz help me
mathesh - 31-Oct-16 @ 1:57 PM
Itsjade - Your Question:
I have been off work on sick leave for about 8 weeks now. My fit note is coming to an end and I feel sick every time I leave the house letter alone going back to work. I am on medication but I do not feel this is doing anything and have changed this twice. My family and partner keep telling me I need to go back to work but I'm just not ready. I really don't know what to do

Our Response:
Sometimes you do need to go back just to get the initial day over. If there's something about work that's bothering you or has caused your depression/sickness, take the bull by the horns and ask for a meeting to discuss how you can get back into work easily.
SafeWorkers - 6-Oct-16 @ 12:10 PM
I have been off work on sick leave for about 8 weeks now. My fit note is coming to an end and I feel sick every time I leave the house letter alone going back to work. I am on medication but I do not feel this is doing anything and have changed this twice. My family and partner keep telling me I need to go back to work but I'm just not ready. I really don't know what to do
Itsjade - 4-Oct-16 @ 10:42 PM
evy - Your Question:
I've been on sick due to depression since 5 weeks. My manager sent me email about wanting meet me and discuss helping my return to work. This is official explanation because in meantime when we spoke by phone he was sarcastic and said doesn;t know what is depression and this reason from fit note doesn't say anything. I don't want to speak with him about my personal problems. Is it legal require from me visiting work place when I'm on SSP?

Our Response:
Yes your employer can request to meet you to discuss your illness if it is long term. If you want to take someone with you that is perfectly acceptable. It might also be advisable to ask your GP to call your employer explain more about depression and what is entails before the meeting. Remember that depression can be regarded as a protected characteristic in discrimination law.
SafeWorkers - 4-Oct-16 @ 12:16 PM
I've been on sick due to depression since 5 weeks. My manager sent me email about wanting meet me and discuss helping my return to work. This is official explanation because in meantime when we spoke by phone he was sarcastic and said doesn;t know what is depression and this reason from fit note doesn't say anything... I don't want to speak with him about my personal problems. Is it legal require from me visiting work place when I'm on SSP?
evy - 3-Oct-16 @ 5:22 PM
I have been off work with anxiety and stress for 5 months and need to go back. The stress has come from many, many different sources at work and outside work. Mine is quite a senior role in a very competitive environment where stress is seen as a weakness. When I meet with HR, what could I ask for in terms of support (in addition to a phased return), to help deal with the anxiety and particularly with relation to colleagues. I have seen others in this situation looked down on, people talking negatively behind their backs, being marginalised, not being believed about the reasons why they were off and being accused of skiving. I resisted going off sick because of this but this made me worse and ultimately has probably made my absence longer. I don't feel ready to return but cannot afford to have my pay cut. Thank you
Hetty - 23-Sep-16 @ 11:24 AM
R - Your Question:
I was off work for 7 months with depression (something I've lived with since my teens, now 36) this absence from work was caused by issues at work with redundancies, outsourcing etc. all of which was poorly handled by management. We were recently outsourced (tupe) to another company and I came back to work in the hopes that things would be better, I'm on my third tier of phased return (due to return to full hours next week) but the situation at work has gotten worse rather than better. With me still being on a phased return would I be able to get signed off work again without fear of any 'negative comeback' from the company we have been outsourced to? I can't handle work and the stress that has gotten worse since my return but I'm worried that having just been outsourced my job would be in jeopardy. Any advice would be appreciated

Our Response:
We can't really say. This will depend what view the company takes of prolonged sickness absence and if your depression is made worse by the job regardless of who is running the company then of course your employer will consider this. Bear in mind that any rights you had with the old company will still be honoured if you were transferred by TUPE.
SafeWorkers - 23-Sep-16 @ 10:06 AM
I was off work for 7 months with depression (something I've lived with since my teens, now 36) this absence from work was caused by issues at work with redundancies, outsourcing etc. all of which was poorly handled by management. We were recently outsourced (tupe) to another company and I came back to work in the hopes that things would be better, I'm on my third tier of phased return (due to return to full hours next week) but the situation at work has gotten worse rather than better. With me still being on a phased return would I be able to get signed off work again without fear of any 'negative comeback' from the company we have been outsourced to? I can't handle work and the stress that has gotten worse since my return but I'm worried that having just been outsourced my job would be in jeopardy. Any advice would be appreciated
R - 22-Sep-16 @ 9:04 AM
Hi i just want an advice. My partner had a surgery and she was signed off for six weeks 16/08/2016. When does the doctor note run out and when she due back to work?
Liz - 16-Sep-16 @ 9:52 PM
Msmith - Your Question:
Hi I have been off sick now with depression and anixety for 12 days and its nearly coming to an end but I feel sick just thinking about going back. Then my anxiety kicks in feels like I cant breath, I have medication but obviously havent taken affect as of yet I feel worse. Teary and sleepy all time which isnt good anyway as I work 12 hour night shifts. I love my job as a whole but I dont think I am ready to go back any advise please.

Our Response:
Do you have an occupational health adviser at your place of work? You need to approach your employer and tell them about the problems. Depression is often classed as one of the characteristics inlcuded in the Equality Act and you should not be discriminated against because of it. Your employer might be able to work with you to ease your path back into work, perhaps by initially reducing your hours etc.
SafeWorkers - 7-Sep-16 @ 10:33 AM
Hi i have been off sick nowwith depression and anixety for 12 days and its nearly coming to an end but i feel sick just thinking about going back. Then my anxiety kicks in feels like i cant breath, i have medication but obviously havent taken affect as of yet i feel worse. Teary and sleepy all time which isnt good anyway as i work 12 hour night shifts. I love my job as a whole but i dont think i am ready to go back any advise please.
Msmith - 6-Sep-16 @ 12:25 AM
I have experienced bullying from a group of my colleagues in retaliation for supporting a colleague. This has been going on for 2 months and include being isolated, spreading lies and trying to get other colleagues to join their group. I have been signed off sick for a month with anxiety and depression and have informed my employers of the bullying through their grievance procedure. Don't know how I will return to work if my employer doesn't do anything or doesn't believe me.
Leah - 25-Aug-16 @ 11:33 AM
Work absent for 7months due to depression
Corrie - 24-Jun-16 @ 9:36 PM
Hi been off work for 5 montages went back to work lasted 3days faded hours on the 3 day had a a dizzy turn and ended back off work for a further 2 months with low mood ,anxiety and now vertigo .due to go back to work Monday but feel due to dizziness I can't do my job as I am a cleaner . As my sick pay is finished and are dealing with DWP now they would like a fit note but I think I need to hand this note to my company can some one advise me what I do next .
Corrie - 24-Jun-16 @ 9:34 PM
Hello - Any comments, advice or just thoughts welcome please! I work in Local Government Dept. I have had several work-related stress issues, going back almost 2 years. All to do with mass redundancy and similar issues, such as relocation, not the work.The whole issue for staff was very badly handled from the top down - management actuallyadmitted as much in writing. After a 2 month work-related absence, I had to complete my Return to Work form with manager. This form specifically states that in any stress case a Stress Assessment MUST be carried out - upper case used on the form. I found out later that this should have been done the first week back. That was November 2015.Still not carried out, so I pointed it out immediately to line manager,then a month later to senior manager. Still never carried out to date. Compounding factors, caused by senior manager's decisions and behaviour have resulted in me having more sick leave on the same grounds. In view of this seemingly mandatory assessment never being done, could this constitute anything along the lines of a Breach of Contract? There are many other factors in addition. I have been employed there around 9 years, part-time, and have also been told unofficially by aa Union Rep involved that they are willing to pay me 3 months and I can just leave if I want to, "with no blame attached to either side". As I am in my 60's, I do want to go, though I haven't told them. I am just wondering if that is a good offer, or why it was made - frankly, I wonder if I am in a position to negotiate for better. I was also advised independently by a third party with employment law experience to instigate a grievance procedure, when he heard some of the things which have led me to this point. I have a lot of documented proof, although there are also instances of conversations, even meetings, with manager, which he denies. These have usually been times when he has specifically arranged it this way - with no notice, etc.
Tirion - 7-Mar-16 @ 8:26 PM
Hello - Any comments, advice or just thoughts welcome please! I work in Local Government Dept. I have had several work-related stress issues, going back almost 2 years. All to do with mass redundancy and similar issues, such as relocation, not the work.The whole issue for staff was very badly handled from the top down - management actuallyadmitted as much in writing. After a 2 month work-related absence, I had to complete my Return to Work form with manager. This form specifically states that in any stress case a Stress Assessment MUST be carried out - upper case used on the form. I found out later that this should have been done the first week back. That was November 2015.Still not carried out, so I pointed it out immediately to line manager,then a month later to senior manager. Still never carried out to date. Compounding factors, caused by senior manager's decisions and behaviour have resulted in me having more sick leave on the same grounds. In view of this seemingly mandatory assessment never being done, could this constitute anything along the lines of a Breach of Contract? There are many other factors in addition. I have been employed there around 9 years, part-time, and have also been told unofficially by aa Union Rep involved that they are willing to pay me 3 months and I can just leave if I want to, "with no blame attached to either side". As I am in my 60's, I do want to go, though I haven't told them. I am just wondering if that is a good offer, or why it was made - frankly, I wonder if I am in a position to negotiate for better. I was also advised independently by a third party with employment law experience to instigate a grievance procedure, when he heard some of the things which have led me to this point. I have a lot of documented proof, although there are also instances of conversations, even meetings, with manager, which he denies. These have usually been times when he has specifically arranged it this way - with no notice, etc.
Tirion - 7-Mar-16 @ 8:24 PM
Worked in A and E for 21 years, had mild depression age 19 in past 3 years I have had two spells of sickness due to depression due to increased pressure in the work place often not getting meal breaks and very high levels of pressure due to increasing demand for A and E and lack of enough permanent staff who are familiar with the department.
Pat - 15-Feb-16 @ 6:36 PM
Swietuana - Your Question:
Eversince I remember I have been very sensitive and emotional, had depressive episodes since I was a teenager. I learned to live with that, control it a little bit and always thought that there was something wrong with me. Or that it is just how I am. But lately it has been really bad. I had more responsible role at work and a lot of stress. I was new to the place, didn't know everything and at that point I had to lead people. I was struggling with getting people's respect and it was more difficult as I am emotional. And didn't get any support from my managers. But I fought and I achieved that. Unfortunately because I was so stressed and irritable it got worse in my relationship. Problems in relationship affected my mood even worse, and I felt hopeless. Plus I am worrying about my future, about money, about my health. Which gets worse because of stress. I feel like I am crazy, I'm in a good mood for two days and something happens and I don't want to go out of my bed. I feel anxiety when I thing about talking to people, I don't have any motivation, don't want to work, I am irritable and argue with people. After that I have 'sane' time, I regret everything I am more stable, in a good mood. And then it's again bad. I had to quit my position and be degraded because I could cope anymore. I don't know what to do. I don't know if it's depression, anxiety or what. I went to my GP saying that I think I have depression, but she asked if I want antidepressants and gave me Time to Talk leaflet. Can they give me an accurate diagnose? I want to know what's wrong with me.

Our Response:
Have you considered the Time to Talk option? It does sound as though it might help and they will give a full summary of your care when you finish with the service.
SafeWorkers - 18-Nov-15 @ 12:30 PM
Nuttytart - Your Question:
Hi I've been signed off work with depression and stress for five weeks I want to go back to work but my doctor wants me to go on reduced hours do I get full pay for doing reduced hours x

Our Response:
No, it's unlikely that you will offered the same pay for reduced hours unless your company has a really good sick pay scheme.
SafeWorkers - 16-Nov-15 @ 12:22 PM
Eversince I remember i have been very sensitive and emotional, had depressive episodes since I was a teenager. I learned to live with that, control it a little bit and always thought that there was something wrong with me.. Or that it is just how I am.. But lately it has been really bad. I had more responsible role at work and a lot of stress. I was new to the place, didn't know everything and at that point I had to lead people. I was struggling with getting people's respect and it was more difficult as I am emotional. And didn't get any support from my managers. But I fought and I achieved that. Unfortunately because I was so stressed and irritable it got worse in my relationship.. Problems in relationship affected my mood even worse, and I felt hopeless. Plus I am worrying about my future, about money, about my health.. Which gets worse because of stress. I feel like I am crazy, I'm in a good mood for two days and something happens and I don't want to go out of my bed. I feel anxiety when I thing about talking to people, I don't have any motivation, don't want to work, I am irritable and argue with people. After that I have 'sane' time, I regret everything I am more stable, in a good mood... And then it's again bad.. I had to quit my position and be degraded because I could cope anymore. I don't know what to do. I don't know if it's depression, anxiety or what. I went to my GP saying that I think I have depression, but she asked if I want antidepressants and gave me Time to Talk leaflet. Can they give me an accurate diagnose? I want to know what's wrong with me..
Swietuana - 15-Nov-15 @ 5:49 PM
Hi I've been signed off work with depression and stress for five weeks I want to go back to work but my doctor wants me to go on reduced hours do I get full pay for doing reduced hours x
Nuttytart - 14-Nov-15 @ 7:29 AM
KDS - Your Question:
My partner suffers with severe depression and along with financial pressures I was struggling. I spoke to a senior manager to see if there was any help which could be provided. The manager said she thought the best thing to do would be for me to go on the sick for a couple of weeks. Then they could refer me to occupational health and have reasonable adjustment put in place. I did not want to do this so took a weeks leave to care for my partner. I realised during the week that I would need more time and went to the doctors as advised by the manager and they signed me off for 2 weeks with anxiety. On my return I had a very brief meeting with my line direct line manager and the more senior manager I discussed my situation with. Originally had been suggested I could work from home a couple of days a week to help reduce the anxiety of worrying about my partner. However it was then said I need to work 2 days a week in the office with my colleague (whose new to the team and also my equal) but he has priority over which days he works from home and I have to work around him and he needs to tell our line manager on a Friday which days he wants to work from home and she will tell me which days I can work from home but I'm not allowed to discuss it with him. I was also given a risk assessment form to fill in "just because I was with anxiety" I had to complete it myself with no guidance. They has also been no mention of occupational health since my returnThe line manager is new to the position and was recently promoted before she was the line manager my working arrangements were really flexible and I could work from home if I had a heavy work load and as long as I was in by 9:30 no one said anything. However since taking over I am being micro managed and now have to work on a rota.She copies the senior manage into all emails questioning my ability and undermining me.My anxiety was nothing to do with my work now I feel sick at the thought of going to work. I now have an absence management meeting for my sickness. I will look for a new job but at the minute my self believe as at an all time low and I need this job to live. Is there anything I can do to stop this escalating?

Our Response:
You should speak to your manager first to ensure they are aware of your feelings. Bear in mind that different managers have different styles so the changes may apply to all staff and not just you. Ask for an appointment with your occupational health department and take it from there.
SafeWorkers - 9-Nov-15 @ 10:59 AM
My partner suffers with severe depression and along with financial pressures I was struggling. I spoke to a senior manager to see if there was any help which could be provided. The manager said she thought the best thing to do would be for me to go on the sick for a couple of weeks. Then they could refer me to occupational health and have reasonable adjustment put in place. I did not want to do this so took a weeks leave to care for my partner. I realised during the week that I would need more time and went to the doctors as advised by the manager and they signed me off for 2 weeks with anxiety. On my return I had a very brief meeting with my line direct line manager and the more senior manager I discussed my situation with. Originally had been suggested I could work from home a couple of days a week to help reduce the anxiety of worrying about my partner. However it was then said I need to work 2 days a week in the office with my colleague (whose new to the team and also my equal) but he has priority over which days he works from home and I have to work around him and he needs to tell our line manager on a Friday which days he wants to work from home and she will tell me which days I can work from home but I'm not allowed to discuss it with him. I was also given a risk assessment form to fill in "just because I was with anxiety" I had to complete it myself with no guidance. They has also been no mention of occupational health since my returnThe line manager is new to the position and was recently promoted before she was the line manager my working arrangements were really flexible and I could work from home if I had a heavy work load and as long as I was in by 9:30 no one said anything. However since taking over I am being micro managed and now have to work on a rota.She copies the senior manage into all emails questioning my ability and undermining me.My anxiety was nothing to do with my work now I feel sick at the thought of going to work. I now have an absence management meeting for my sickness. I will look for a new job but at the minute my self believe as at an all time low and I need this job to live. Is there anything I can do to stop this escalating?
KDS - 8-Nov-15 @ 1:30 PM
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