Connect4Work Connecting those who have taken time off due to medical leave with the right job, not any job

Mary Finn started Connect4Work having run a pilot programme for people returning to work following illness or being on medical leave. It was here that she saw the need for greater compassion and understanding from employers while at the same time, boosting the confidence and self-belief of the employees. Connect4Work now runs programmes for those who have taken time off due to medical leave along with coaching employers on how best to support and plan for these employees returning to work:

  1. To someone who may not be aware, what is Connect4Work?

That is the million dollar question!  Businesses support their employee’s wellbeing in a variety of ways, but, when it comes to disability management, many are unsure where to start or how to support employees stay-at or return-to work.  Connect4Work is solutions focussed and implements strategies to assist both employer and employee maintain employment and avoid absence.

2. Why did you decide to establish Connect4Work? What was the market’s need?

The business was born out of my experience working on a pilot programme.  I witnessed the impact of the service on people who were unsure how, when or if they could return to work.  Employers themselves were uncertain and sometimes did nothing but wait for their employee to return.

People need supports when planning a return-to work – I provide a person centred service to help them.

3. What are some of the biggest success stories from the programme?

I have a few people whose stories always spring to mind. One such person I supported whose recovery from back surgery did not progress as expected, preventing her from working.  Her employer had no idea how to talk to her about work so asked me to help. A return to work plan was drafted and she successfully returned to work on modified duties.  I actually did not recognise her when I visited her shortly afterward – she was so happy to be back at work. That was the impact of her gaining control of her life.

A second person whose return to work took much longer, she was in a very vulnerable position. Financially, she was finding it difficult to afford to live, she was socially isolated and feared for her future. Through our meetings, we identified alternative work with the same employer and she returned to work, gradually building up to full time hours. She said it was the first time in a long time she had hope for the future.

4. If a person is away from work, but wants to get back, what should they do?

Call me!  I will ask them to introduce me to their organisation so we can work together in a collaborative way.

My big vision for the service is to enable employers to be supportive of the diversity of their employees and any challenges they face in their lives and be a truly inclusive employer. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more engaged and productive.

5. If a company has an absent employee, what should they do?

Call me! For more information on the service, visit our website Connect4Work. Everyone is different, everyone is unique, we adopt a case management approach with each person, exploring all options including applications for any eligible grant assistance. 

6. What are some of the biggest myths of employing people who have away work for some time?

From the employee’s perspective, they sometimes lose their confidence and experience a range of emotions and fears such as; how am I going to go back to work and of course, once back – will I be able to stay there?

Employers wonder how their employee is going to be and will they be able to sustain work?  Are they going to need more time off in the future?  They often ask “What should I say to my employee?”

7. How did the pandemic affect the organisation. Are there any positives that you can take from this period?

When the pandemic first hit – I had to figure out how to do things differently, same as everybody.  One big advantage is that the world became very small, I now deliver services online, learnt a whole load from attending webinars all over the world, I am benchmarking international best practices and MC’d a UK event that streamed live across Europe. I delivered a new programme for organisations to approximately 2000 people on preparing for a return to the work place in line with Government protocols.

8. What were some of the highlights of 2021?

The year started well with my appointment as Irish Co-Ordinator for the Vocational Rehabilitation Association and ended with an award for Outstanding Contribution.

During the year, I was Accredited with an All Star from the All Ireland Business Foundation and shortlisted for Galway Chamber Business Awards in their Accessibility Diversity and Inclusion Category.

In mid-December I signed the Diversity Charter for Ireland – a community of diversity and inclusion practitioners, seeking to build best practice in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in their workplaces.

The business has grown with new clients – and people have gone back to work which is the bit I most enjoy so, on the whole it was a good year!

9. What are your 3 Tips for creating a business

Anyone who is inspired to create a business, go for it. I delayed for so long, I had doubts, but now! – I’m so glad I did it. 

Talk to someone, ask other entrepreneurs how they did it.

Network – it is important to have supports. The breath of emotions experienced as an entrepreneur is huge, so, step up for yourself and network or apply for business development programmes.

10. Are there any other programmes or organisations in Diversity and Inclusion in Ireland that you are a fan of? 

Diversity Charter Ireland – one of 26 charters within the EU.


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Twitter:  @Connect4Work

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