Work-related Ill Health
It makes good business sense to manage high levels of sickness absence which can adversely affect the productivity, efficiency and morale of the company and its employees.
How do I know that I have a sickness absence problem?
If you are an employer and you are reading this, it is likely that it has crossed your mind!
You may notice that you have a sickness absence problem if:
- your agency or overtime costs are higher than expected or,
- your production levels are lower than normal or,
- you have received a 2nd doctors fit (sick) note for an individual.
What should I do about it?
Everyone is likely to have some time off sick during their working life. It is reasonable therefore to consider what you are going to do about it before it becomes a problem.
HSE suggests that managers try to:
- Keep in touch. Managers are hesitant about this in case they say the wrong thing or are perceived by the employee as hassling. However, if there is little or no communication, misunderstanding and barriers can quickly arise. The employee can feel that they are not missed or valued, and this can exacerbate already low self-esteem. Inviting them to social events will show that you still think of them as one of the team.
- Reassure them about practical issues, e.g. their job is safe, deal with financial worries – loss of sick pay can lead to debt problems which can exacerbate problems further.
- Give the employee the chance to explain the problem and what is happening by asking open questions.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help.
- Reassure them that you understand medical and personal boundaries and will respect them.
- Review their needs/wishes for support.
- Offer Occupational Health support.
Employees rarely go off work sick until they are significantly incapacitated, but there appears to be an attitude amongst some managers which requires employees to be 100% well before they return to work.
Employees are more likely to return to their normal job earlier if they are assisted in their return by offering temporary adjustments to their duties, hours, and equipment. There is also evidence to suggest that early contact with individuals can be effective in reducing the duration of the absence.
An employee returning to work following sickness absence should not be a surprise!
Rehabilitation planning should start early, especially in cases where employees are experiencing mental health or musculo-sketetal problems as Occupational Health support can significantly benefit the employee, and in turn, the employer.
Rehabilitation planning can even be done before an employee goes off sick where there is planned surgery. This is usually benefit for the employee as they have the opportunity to express any concerns they may have relating to the surgery, post-operative expectations and their sickness absence.
The Occupational Health Advisers are also able to offer advice to the employees to help them to help themselves. By helping an employee to set rehabilitation goals and giving them confidence (and permission) to go out of the house to achieve them, the employee is able to start to build up their stamina and confidence to return to work.
Peritus Health Management’s Occupational Health Advisers are specially trained to be able to assess the need for modifications to the duties, environment or terms of employment, on a temporary or permanent basis to enable the employee to achieve their optimum potential. Occupational Health Advisers provide verbal and written reports within 2 working days of assessment so that employers are able to respond to relevant, practical and current advice.
We advise that, whether the employee is disabled, under the terms of the Equality Act or not, that the processes put in place to comply with this legislation are applied to all employees as they are likely to benefit both the employee and employer.
Dismissal due to ill health
There is a perception that an employee who is absent from work due to sickness cannot be dismissed. This is not the case. Whilst this may be an uncomfortable process to follow because an employee may lose their job for something which is not their fault, it is necessary where the employer can no longer cope with the employee’s level of absence, or where the adaptations to their duties become unreasonable. This action has to be based on medical evidence.
For more information about our sickness absence management services, contact us.
Published date: 19th February 2018
Last revision: 17th July 2019