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Top tips on managing sickness absence
When a team member calls in sick, it is helpful for you to take the call yourself (though check your organisation’s policy on who should take the call). This is your opportunity to express concern and find out more.
Maintain contact with team members while they are off sick to show concern and continue to monitor the situation.
If the sickness absence becomes long term you should continue to maintain contact (and encourage other team members to do the same if appropriate). In addition, you may need to:
- involve and inform both HR and Occupational Health
- keep the team member in touch with the workplace
- reassure the person that they are supported
- explore whether work has contributed to the problem and whether any adjustments should be considered
Meet with the team member (return-to-work interview) as soon as possible after the team member returns. This is your opportunity to:
- show you value the person and their contribution
- check whether there are still any health issues that may impact on work
- explore whether any work adjustments should be considered
- explore what support the person may need from
When a team member has been on long-term sickness absence, it may be helpful to have a meeting with them before they return to work to put together an action plan and start re-engaging them with the workplace. In addition, you will need to:
- help re-introduce the person to work by bringing them up to speed on what has happened in their absence
- engage the whole team in supporting the person’s return to work
- conduct a risk assessment if circumstances require this and put in place solutions to minimise the risk
- put in place any agreed rehabilitation processes such as phased return, altered hours/duties or other adjustments
New research-based guidance has been produced setting out the manager behaviours that are important to support an employee returning to work following long-term sickness absence:http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/hrpract/absence/ _manager_support_long_term_sickness
If possible, try to meet face to face with staff returning from sickness absence. However, if you are not in the same work location as the team member, you could hold these discussions over the phone, by video conferencing or using other media. Even if you are not meeting face to face, make sure you book a room/s in which you will not be interrupted and where will be relaxed and safe.
When short-term absence becomes recurrent, this needs to be handled proactively. Your organisation may have standard processes describing action to take: if not, you need to establish consistent standards. Appropriate actions are likely to include: investigating the situation fully; holding an absence review meeting with the team member; exploring the medical circumstances with occupational health and/or their GP (though there are legal implications to this); and addressing the problem (through providing support, or appropriate policy or procedure). The resources page provides links to more in-depth information.