PROWORK (PROmoting a sustainable and healthy return to WORK) project – a Return to Work pilot intervention

The PROWORK project is funded by the Midlands Engine and is part of the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot which aims to support employers across the Midlands Engine to improve the future of workplace mental health and wellbeing. We are currently recruiting employers based in the Midlands Engine region (which covers a huge area across Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, the Marches, Worcestershire as well as the West Midlands) to participate in our research trial. 

Sickness absence costs UK businesses approximately £9 billion per year. In 2018/19 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 54% of all working days lost to ill health1 and research suggests that stress and mental ill-health account for a large portion of those on long-term sickness absence2. Ensuring that workers are supported to achieve a happy, healthy, and sustainable return to work is key.

Many organisations provide mental health support through a range of mental wellbeing initiatives such as EAP services, but the evidence suggests that more direct support from the employer is needed for those on long-term sick leave, particularly open and regular communication between the employer and employee. Supporting this, scientific evidence suggests that regular good quality communication and contact with the workplace can reduce the length of sickness absence by an average of 15-30 days3. However, many line managers often lack the experience and training needed to support their employee on long-term sick leave.

To address this gap a team of researchers from Loughborough University, University of Nottingham, University of Birmingham, Warwick University and Affinity Health at Work have developed a three-step online toolkit to support both employees and employers in the return to work process following long term sickness absence.

The PROWORK project consists of:

  • An employer toolkit
  • An employee toolkit
  • Line manager training

The toolkits include a variety of checklists, resources and frameworks and employee participants will also receive three return to work coaching sessions.

Organisations who participate in the research trial will be randomly allocated to either the intervention or the control group.

To find out more information about the project or to sign up to participate please contact:

Read more about the project here.


  1. Health and Safety Executive (2019). Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019.
  2. Sakakibara, S., Sado, M., Ninomiya, A., Arai, M., Takahashi, S., Ishihara, C., Miura, Y., Tabuchi, H., Shirahase, J. & Mimura, M. (2019). Predictive factors of the duration of sick leave due to mental disorders. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 13(19).
  3. Mikkelsen, M. B., & Rosholm, M. (2018). Systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions aimed at enhancing return to work for sick-listed workers with common mental disorders, stress-related disorders, somatoform disorders and personality disorders. Occupational and environmental medicine, 75(9).

Download a copy of the flyer here