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Protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled study of a multicomponent intervention to promote a sustainable return to work of workers on long-term sick leave — PROWORK: PROmoting a Sustainable and Healthy Return to WORK

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posted on 21.09.2022, 11:25 authored by Veronica Varela-MatoVeronica Varela-Mato, Kate Godfree, Anwar Adem, Holly Blake, Craig Bartle, Guy Daly, Juliet Hassard, Richard Kneller, Caroline Meyer, Sean Russell, Steven Marwaha, Charlotte Kershaw, Kristina Newman, Joanna Yarker, Louise Thomson, Fehmidah MunirFehmidah Munir
Background: The cost of sickness absence has major social, psychological and financial implications for individuals and organisations. Return-to-work (RTW) interventions that support good quality communication and contact with the workplace can reduce the length of sickness absence by between 15 and 30 days. However, initiatives promoting a sustainable return to work for workers with poor mental health on long-term sickness absence across small, medium and large enterprises (SMEs and LEs) are limited. This paper describes the protocol of a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) to test the feasibility of implementing a RTW intervention across SMEs and LEs across all sectors. Methods and design: A two-arm feasibility RCT with a 4-month intervention will be conducted in SMEs and LE enterprises from the Midlands region, UK. At least 8 organisations (4 controls and interventions), and at least 60 workers and/or managers, will be recruited and randomised into the intervention and control group (30 interventions, 30 controls). Workers on long-term sickness absence (LTSA) (between 8 and 50 days) and managers with a worker on LTSA will be eligible to participate. The intervention is a behavioural change programme, including a managers and workers RTW toolkit, focused on supporting sickness absence and RTW through the provision of knowledge, problem-solving, action planning, goal setting and positive communication that leads to a sustainable RTW. Organisations assigned to the control group will continue with their usual practice. Measurements of mental health, RTW, work outcomes, quality-of-life, workplace support and communication and other demographic data will be taken at baseline, 2 months and 4 months. Feasibility will be assessed based on recruitment, retention, attrition, completion of measures and intervention compliance for which specific process and research outcomes have been established. A process evaluation will explore the experiences and acceptability of the intervention components and evaluation measures. Exploratory economic evaluation will be conducted to further inform a definitive trial. Discussion: This is a novel intervention using a worker-manager approach to promote a sustainable return to work of workers on long-term sick leave due to poor mental wellbeing. If this intervention is shown to be feasible, the outcomes will inform a larger scale randomised control trial. Trial registration: ISRCTN90032009 (retrospectively registered, date registered 15th December 2020)


Midlands Engine (CPU 2640) through the Mental Health and Productivity Pilot

NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Pilot and Feasibility Studies




BioMed Central


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Prof Fehmidah Munir. Deposit date: 21 September 2022

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