Advice to employers and colleagues after a burn

This section covers:

  • The importance of having supportive employers and colleagues
  • Understanding burn injuries and making adjustments in the workplace
  • Education and training for employers

Having an employer who is understanding to employees’ needs is important. When an employee has a burn injury, or their child has been burnt, there can be some extra considerations. Sometimes employers and colleagues do not understand how severe burn injuries can be, or that a burn injury may require lifelong treatment.

The importance of having supportive employers and colleagues

The people we spoke to appreciated it when their employers showed consistent support when they had been burnt or had a child who had been burnt. Speaking of the impact on work after her daughter was burnt, Lindsay described sometimes feeling “guilty for letting people down” but that the understanding of her colleagues “is huge, it’s massive”.

Lindsay believed that support from an employer is key to coping with the challenging circumstances surrounding burn injuries.

Some people, like Frazer, appreciated that his employer and colleague didn’t question or insist on having “evidence” when he needed time off work. After her child was burnt, Holly appreciated that her work didn’t “quiz me loads about it… because I wouldn’t have really wanted to [go into detail about it]”.

Helen Y thinks that if an employer is understanding about someone needing to take time off to attend appointments, then the employee will be grateful and want to show their gratitude through hard work. She thought that supporting an employee who has had a “traumatic experience” would eventually foster positive work qualities, like being “a wider, more resilient and more creative person in the company”.

Understanding burn injuries and making adjustments in the workplace

A common misconception is that burns are relatively minor injuries which only require short-term, immediate treatment. If employers and colleagues hold this belief, it can cause problems and tensions when a person needs time off for appointments and ongoing treatment.

Saffron wants employers to understand that having a burn is a life-long journey.

Sometimes adjustments within the workplace are needed to make returning to and continuing work easier for a person who has had a burn injury. The people we spoke to wanted to be treated like a normal person but recognised that this required others to understand the challenges of having a burn and employers to make any necessary adjustments so they could continue work.

Frazer suggested that employers should not put pressure on their employees whilst they adjust to working after a burn injury.

For example, as he works in a laboratory, Tom was required to wear rubber gloves. He told us it would have been beneficial if his employer had provided latex-free gloves which wouldn’t irritate his scars. He also explained how he would have appreciated having hand-moisturiser available in the bathrooms to keep his burn scars hydrated and to stop them from itching.

India thought it was a good idea to have discreet ways for employees or students to ask for additional support, for example if they felt uncomfortable talking about it in person and would prefer to send an email.

Some of the people we spoke to felt lucky that their employer had allowed them to work from home while they were recovering from their injury or treatment, or when caring for their child who had been injured. Chris Y and Amy said they were “fortunate” to be able to work from home. They acknowledged that it would be a “struggle” to look after a child with a burn in jobs where physically being present in the work setting was necessary.

Sarah felt grateful that she was able to work from home when she started working again.

Education and training for employers

Saffron spoke about the importance of employers providing training to educate colleagues about burns and visible differences. She also felt it was important that first-aid is taught within the workplace in the event of an accident.

India wants to encourage workplaces to provide training about visible differences and inclusivity.

Chris Y said it was important for employers to have a contingency plan or policy in place for when an employee needs to take time off for recovery and treatment after accidents, such as a burn injury.

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