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How to Better Manage an Employee on Long-Term Sick Leave

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In recent weeks we have seen an increase in call volumes from clients who have employees on long-term sick leave.

Long-term sickness is classed as a period of continuous absence from work lasting four weeks or more.

We understand that dealing with employees on long-term sick leave can be stressful and difficult for employers, but our advice would always be to deal with it sensitively and proactively, not allowing the situation to get out of control. 

Your sickness policy will help clarify the procedure that should be followed by both the employer and employee, in line with statutory requirements.

Best Practice for Dealing with Long term sick

1. Keep in touch with the employee
2. Follow procedure and obtain fit notes
3. Organise welfare meetings
4. Ask for consent to obtain a medical report from an Occupational Health Practitioner, GP or consultant.

A medical report will help you understand the details e.g. the severity of the conditions, expected return to work date, what reasonable adjustments may be required and if the condition may be classed as a disability. You will be required to pay for a medical report and our advice would be to obtain one from an external Occupational Health provider.

Occupational Health advice can be of great assistance to employers when an employee is on long-term sickness or about to return to work after a lengthy absence. Occupational Health plays the role of an enabler; removing barriers to returning to work and helping the sick employee return safely or occupational health can effectively support a decision to dismiss on ill-health grounds.

Some companies have their own in-house occupational health team but here at HR:4UK, we work with the PAM Group to provide this all-important service. 

Benefits of Utilising Occupational Health Services

Employers in the UK can benefit from utilising occupational health professionals when dealing with someone on long-term sick leave in several ways. Here are some examples:

Early intervention: To identify and address health-related issues early on, before they become more serious and lead to long-term sick leave. By providing support and guidance, occupational health professionals can help employees return to work sooner, reducing the length of sick leave and the cost associated with long-term absence.

Health assessments: To identify the underlying causes of an employee’s illness or injury. These assessments can help employers understand the employee’s condition and develop a suitable return-to-work plan that takes into account any adjustments or accommodations that may be required.

Workplace adjustments: Advising employers on the reasonable adjustments that can be made in the workplace to accommodate an employee’s health condition. This can include changes to the employee’s duties, working hours, or work environment to help them return to work and perform their job effectively.

Compliance with legal requirements: Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their employees. Occupational health professionals can help employers comply with these legal requirements by providing advice on risk assessments, health and safety policies, and occupational health regulations.

Improved productivity: By supporting employees’ health and well-being, occupational health professionals can help improve productivity and reduce the costs associated with sickness absence. By ensuring that employees have the necessary support and resources to manage their health conditions, employers can reduce the likelihood of long-term absence and improve staff morale and engagement.

In summary, occupational health can be a valuable resource for employers when dealing with an employee on long-term sick leave. It helps them to identify the reasons for sickness and provides advice on how to manage it effectively. Occupational health programmes also provide employers with the guidance they need to ensure they are adhering to applicable regulations and taking reasonable care of their employees’ health and safety. By implementing an occupational health programme, employers can protect their people, profits and reputation while still managing sickness in the workplace.

To find out more or to access the Occupational Health team contact our advisors today.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.