Don't overlook long term absence.  Best practice tips.
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Don’t overlook long term absence!

Staying in regular contact with absentees can be tricky at best of times but it’s risky to overlook long term absence. Understandably, many operational needs go first and in a busy work environment taking the time to pick up the phone and have a chat with someone on long term sick leave is easily forgotten or pushed into next week. From a duty of care point of view, however, it is important not to neglect absent employees even if that welfare call seems insignificant at the time. You might think that the absent employee would prefer to be left in peace to recover and you’re only disturbing them by making regular calls to check how they are doing.

Neglecting absent employees can end up costing thousands

Lack of interest on the employer’s part can fare ill in a tribunal as you can see from the two case studies we posted some time ago. In both cases, the lack of contact from the employer eventually resulted in a tribunal bill of tens of thousands of pounds. It is important for the psychological wellbeing of the employee that they have positive contact from their employer during their long term absence and neglecting this can have severe repercussions for their recovery.

Absent employees accrue holiday, too

Especially during the holiday season, when most employees and managers are taking a week or two off themselves, the regular phone call to long term absentees might get forgotten. Don’t forget, though, that absent employees accrue annual leave even whilst off sick and that is another reason why you should take an interest in helping them return to work.

There’s no such thing as “absence that doesn’t cost anything”

Some employers think that absence is costing them nothing because they don’t pay sick pay (this is a myth!) but even if your staff aren’t paid company sick pay, they will still be entitled to all the missed holidays when they come back to work and so there can be significant costs to the employer when the employee returns after a long term absence. Even if you have since recruited someone new to do the job of the absentee, they are entitled to demand their job back so you should evaluate the situation carefully when recruiting.

As a part of our “Usual Suspects of Poor Attendance” we’ve put together a profile for a problem long term absentee, Wild Bill Ghost and you can read more about how to manage long term absence issues on his Usual Suspects profile.