The Buddy System

This is a simple system developed by Avon and Somerset Police which involves the pairing of one employee with another who has had a long term absence whether this is due to sickness, maternity leave or other matters. The ‘buddy’ will help this colleague return to the work place by being a friendly face and someone they can turn to for support. 

The Buddy System starts with the 'Buddy' meeting the employee in the car park on their first day back, walking into the office with them and sitting next to them. They will continue to support for the first few weeks of their return to work.

How it works

Our investigations directorate has a wellbeing lead who formed a CID wellbeing group, through which this idea was suggested. An expression of interest was circulated and many responses received.   Buddies are sought via an expression of interest and those who apply are invited to an induction meeting where we outline the role and expectations.  

It is made clear that they are not a mentor for the person and won’t help with their work, they will simply assist with facilitating the return to work and any welfare requirements. Bespoke mental health and signposting will also be provided, along with ongoing Continuous Professional Development inputs from Occupational Health, HR and other internal and external partners. Support from their line manager will be required but this is supported by the directorate.

A policy document is in the process of being drafted to formalise the arrangements. This will be advertised to line managers and they will be asked to make sure that any person returning to their team from a long term absence is offered the opportunity to have a ‘buddy’ as part of their return to work plan. That person will then be paired with a ‘buddy’ from their place of work. They may not necessarily be on the same team.

Support will be given to the ‘buddy’ from their line manager and the CID wellbeing group. There will be feedback from both the person returning to work and the ‘buddy’ on completion of the process. It is not time limited but anticipated to average four to eight weeks.

Top Tips for Implementation

Tip 1
Ensure a robust process for volunteers, such as an Expression of Interest process to ensure the right people are recruited as Buddies.
Tip 2
Ensure roles and expectations are clearly laid out for those who volunteer.
Tip 3
Ensure regular CPD inputs for ongoing engagement.
Budget required


Ease of implementation


Impact on Investigators