Even the healthiest of us have to take time off work sick sometimes and with the pandemic it is more than likely that you will have employees off at some point. But it isn’t just coronavirus that can make people take prolonged periods of time off work. Health conditions such as cancer or strokes, medical negligence or a mental illness can also lead to an employee having many days, weeks or months off work. Medical Negligence experts, First4Lawyers ask: What should you do if an employee is off work sick?

Be reasonable and act fairly

It is important that you are reasonable and, if your employee has been through a traumatic experience like suffering from a life-threatening disease or medical negligence, that you show compassion. Also have a written absence policy in place, that includes information such as sick pay, and make sure employees understand the policy.

When an employee phones in sick

Firstly, make sure managers who take calls from sick employees are trained. They should ask the employee the reason for their absence and the likely date of their return. Further, you should obtain evidence from your employee of their reason for their absence. A self-certification should be provided for seven days or less or a doctor’s note for longer. You should also stay in contact with your employee. Don’t be overbearing but calling every couple of weeks or so is acceptable.

Keep updated on their medical condition

You should encourage employees to contact their manager when they have an update on their medical condition. Keep a paper trail of all meetings and correspondence as well as a record of telephone conversations and messages left. Phone calls and messages should be followed up with a letter summarising the steps taken to contact your employee and any action plans agreed. It’s important that letters aren’t judgmental as they may be disclosed in the event of an employment tribunal.

Return to work interviews

It is recommended that you carry out back to work interviews for employees, especially if they have been off for more than three days. This is especially useful if you need to launch an investigation into why an employee was off work. It is also important to work out if the employee needs any reasonable adjustments need to be made.

When absence becomes a problem

If an employee is frequently off work you may need to consider carrying out a formal procedure. It is important that this is carried out consistently. Consider when a procedure should be started, such as if an employee is off sick a certain number of days in a year. If you follow this procedure you will ensure your staff return to work as soon as they can and, if they don’t, you can take the relevant action.