Medical

Familiarise yourself with the medical needs your brain injured employee may now have in the workplace.

On returning to work

What are the brain injured employee’s medication needs?

A brain injury can cause complications that may require your brain injured employee to take medication, for example for the risk of seizures. It may also be prescribed to manage the consequences of the brain injury, for example for anxiety or depression.

Medication has its own side effects and may mean that an employee can’t carry out certain tasks, for example using heavy machinery. It is important that you understand what they are unable to do as a result of taking their medication and what the potential side effects are. This means you can offer a safe and supportive environment for them and other employees.

On their return to work, you are likely to have been advised about your brain injured employee’s medication needs if they’ve undergone an occupational health assessment. You must ensure that this information is kept confidential and not shared with others unless your employee agrees to this.

As their medication will change over time, you should encourage the employee to talk openly with you if anything new arises that may affect their work. If they have any concerns at all, you should suggest that they speak to their doctor about how it may affect their ability to work.

Do they need time off from work for medical appointments?

It can take a long time to reach the best possible recovery after a brain injury and many people continue to make progress over a number of years.

When the employee first returns to work, you should meet to discuss what they need in terms of time off to have treatment or rehabilitation. They may still need to attend regular medical appointments. If these appointments are during working hours, you should try to accommodate them as much as you can to help them progress.

Is there anything that they may particularly need within the first few weeks of returning to work?

The first few weeks back at work is likely to be an intense period of adjustment for the employee.   Many tasks will need to be relearned and they will be working out how to adapt their new abilities to do the job. During this time, the employee may feel particularly anxious and overwhelmed.

You should have a ‘back to work’ action plan in place to help make the employee’s return to work as easy as possible. This may include a staged return to full time hours and workload, building in flexibility for changes.

Any further recovery from a brain injury after a return to work is likely to be slow and will fluctuate.  As time goes on, the employee will adapt to their role and work environment, and things should become easier for them.

You should try and create an open work environment so that your employee feels comfortable sharing their changing medical needs. You will then be in the best position to manage your business appropriately whilst ensuring the employee receives the support they need.

Throughout employment

Does their need to take medication affect any key parts of their role?

Whether medication affects the employee’s ability to carry out their role will depend upon the type of medication they are taking and how their taking it can fit into their working day.

The employee may have been prescribed medication to help alleviate or manage a particular difficulty. However, the medication itself may have negative side effects which could impact an employee’s performance. For example, some medication can cause extreme fatigue, which is already likely to be suffered because of the injury itself, so may make existing symptoms worse.

If you notice that the employee’s performance has changed, you should investigate the reasons for this. You may want to meet with the employee to see whether a change in medication could be the cause. If the employee consents, you may also want to seek medical advice as to the effects of the medication. Understanding this will be helpful in agreeing a plan to move forward.

Do they need a quiet space to take medication?

Medication can usually be taken without special arrangements being made. However, an employee may want privacy, particularly if they’ve not shared information about their injury with their colleagues.

You should discuss this with your employee and try to accommodate their request as much as possible.

It may not be practicable to provide a private room for the employee to take their medication. You may, however, be able to make minor adjustments, such as providing a screen or allowing the employee extra breaks so that they can do this in privacy.

Does their medication have any side effects that need to be considered?

All medication carries a risk of side effects. These can range from minor discomfort to severe responses and can develop either straight away or after the employee has been on the medication for some time.

Whilst the employee may not experience any significant side effects, it is important to know what risks there are when considering the tasks assigned to the employee. For example, if the employee is taking medication that could cause fatigue, it’s not advisable to assign the employee a task involving heavy machinery or driving. They may, in any event, be unable to drive as a result of their brain injury.

By anticipating likely side effects, you can consider these when managing your employee’s workload. You can also factor in any adjustments that the employee may need, such as additional breaks or flexible working. This will help to ensure that the employee can achieve their full potential.

Specific triggers

Do work social events require your brain injured employee to change their medication?

A brain injury can change the way an employee expresses and feels emotions. For example, they may experience heightened feelings, anxiety or depression. If the employee is struggling to manage their emotions, they may be prescribed medication.

A social event may exacerbate some of the difficulties associated with a brain injury. For example, the employee may experience increased anxiety at social events but this does not necessarily mean that their medication will be increased. They may try and manage this additional stress in other ways, for example by planning their attendance at the event to minimise anxiety or by using alternative therapies.

Does your brain injured employee’s medication need to change so that they can travel for work?

Business travel could involve anything from driving or travelling by train between towns, to flying to different countries. It is important to consider the type of travel involved and how this could affect the employee.

Travel may not affect the type and quantity of medication taken by the employee. Of course, this will depend on what medication the employee is taking and the type of travelling involved. If they have any mobility difficulties, special arrangements may need to be made for travel with the operator. Your employee should speak to their doctor to discuss what they need, if there would be any difficulties in travelling, and how these could be dealt with.

You should discuss any concerns with the employee and ensure that they are safe and happy to travel.

What potential difficulties should you be aware of when their medication changes?

The dose of an employee’s medication may need to change for a number of reasons. It might be that their medication needs to be adjusted by their doctor to achieve the desired effect and cause minimum side effects.

Any change in the amount or type of medication an employee is taking carries a risk of side effects. If you notice a change for the worse in the employee’s behaviour or performance, you should meet with them to discuss what may be causing this. If you suspect that a change in medication may be the cause, you should encourage your employee to speak to their GP or specialist doctor as soon as possible.

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