All you need to know in 30 seconds
- Maintain positive and regular contact with your employee to make them feel more valued and prevent them from feeling isolated.
- Contact your employee as soon as possible to discuss the reason for absence and its likely duration.
- Assure the employee that you will contact them at regular agreed times setting aside time for them to talk to you about any support they need.
- Familiarise yourself with the Board’s Procedures for keeping in contact, use them and communicate them to your team.
- For a longer period of absence, keep your employee updated about work and consider an active case management approach to keep track of their absence.
Ask your employee:
- How they are and how their condition is progressing
- If they need help accessing appropriate support and treatment
- When they might feel ready to return to work
- What is preventing them from returning now - could they do minimal or adjusted duties
All you need to know in detail
Positive and regular contact with your employee is crucial, and can help them feel supported and valued, and prevent them from feeling isolated.
Talk to your employee about the nature of their illness, its impact on their work and likely duration, as soon as they report their absence from work. If you don’t take their first call, contact the employee at the earliest opportunity to have this discussion.
Weekly contact with employees is recommended in the initial phase of an illness lasting more than a week with 4 weekly contact for illnesses that will result in a longer period of absence. However each case will be slightly different due to the nature of the employee’s illness, so the frequency of contact should be discussed and agreed with the employee.
As well as agreeing to the frequency of contact, make sure you also set aside time to fully discuss their absence and any support they may need. Always remind your employee that you will be keeping in contact with them during their absence and that you are there to help facilitate their return to work.
Helpful questions to ask your employee include:
- How are they doing?
- Are they making progress?
- Are they receiving appropriate support and treatment?
- Are they waiting for physiotherapy, counselling, outpatient appointments or inpatient services?
- What parts of their current job can’t the employee do?
- When might the employee feel ready to return to work?
- Can they do minimal or adjusted duties?
- What can you do for your employee? For example:
- facilitate easier access to physiotherapy, counselling etc.
- make adjustments to hours or duties
- explore possibilities of temporary alternative work
To find out more about providing any help your employee needs, see information on Occupational Health, including the Physiotherapy Self Referral Service, phased return, making reasonable adjustments and redeployment.
For longer absences, update the employee about any work changes that have happened during their absence, to prevent them from feeling isolated. Keep your employee in the loop by including them in emails about work if they wish, so they can keep an eye on things while they are absent or catch up when they return. This will help them alleviate any worries about their work, and who is covering for them.
Know the policies to use and where to get support
Make sure you are familiar with the Board’s Attendance Management Policy and associated guidance. In addition consider any other policies that might be relevant to the circumstances of the absence (eg. Stress in the Workplace; Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy, Alcohol and Substance Policy).
Further advice on managing long term sickness absence is also available from the HR Support and Advice Unit.
In addition, you may wish to make a referral to Occupational Health for further guidance on supporting the employee during long term sickness.
There is also a range of Self Help support available on HRConnect which you can signpost the employee to.