'When you are ill, work is not high on your list of priorities. When you are forced to stay at home for a long time it keeps tumbling down this list. The threshold for returning to work seems to keep growing', says Katrien Kerckhove, HR manager at Randstad Group.

'returning to work is like a first day at school'

'By keeping regular contact you do not need to break all ties with your employer, of course with all due respect for your recovery process and medical confidentiality. During a prior evaluation meeting discuss what you can and want to do when you return. There should be no taboos.

Having an illness makes you more mindful, and it can change you: talk about how you feel. Join your employer in looking for a good solution, to suit your abilities and ambitions. Don't be disillusioned. An illness may also mean ending the partnership.

After a long absence you return to work as if it is a first day at school, with all the fears and uncertainty. It is certain that much will have changed. Take the time to settle back in and sit regularly with your manager to check that everything is going in the right direction, both for you and for the employer. Again, there should be no taboos.