Torofy Blog

Depression and Heart Disease

Managing a Return from Sickness Absence – Our Top Tips


The media is full of stories about how
many business days sick leave costs UK industry and here at Stephens Scown we
regularly deal with inquiries about how to manage sickness absence. Sometimes though it
can be easy to forget that managing someone’s return to the workplace can be just as
important and as difficult as managing their absence. Now I don’t have a silver
bullet that will guarantee that the return will be successful and a range of behaviours
are going to be important, with adjustments to take into account the reasons for and
length of the underlying absence. Someone returning from a physical injury
following an accident is going to be in a very different position to someone
returning from a mental health absence so make sure you know what the latest medical
advice is for that particular employee and their hours, duties and so on – but two
words of caution, first be careful about how widely known this information is it’s sensitive personal data and letting people have it without the employees consent could be
a serious breach of confidentiality. Secondly, at this point it’s more about the person
than their illness or condition, it’s about good people management, effective
communication and showing sensitivity and understanding to your employee. Talk
to your employee’s line manager, they are likely to be their first point of
contact and responsible for day-to-day management of them once they return, however
if they are part of the problem clearly you’re going to need to put someone else in
that role. You might want to think about getting in contact with your employee before they return; make sure they know what’s going to happen on their first day so they are not
taken by surprise. The first stage should include a return to work meeting with
your employee, this is partly just to check how they are feeling and making sure they are alright, but it’s also about updating you on relevant things within the team and the
business but don’t overload them, at this point it’s about headlines things
they need to know so they don’t feel out of the loop. Offer them support and
reassurance and make sure they know where to go to for help if they need it.
You need to manage those early days carefully, even with the best laid plans an employee doesn’t really know how they are going to feel until they are back in the workplace so keep everything under review and be prepared to adapt if you need to. Lastly,
keep going, it’s easy to return to business as usual once an employee is back at work but
they may need support for many months to come and there need to be routes to make
that happen. If you’ve invested in someone over a period of time don’t give up on
them now, make them feel that they’re welcome back in your business and that
you want them back fully functioning as well as they can.

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