Truth or Myth? Absent employees should be left to recover in peace and should not be contacted by their managers?

It is commonplace within HR to think that if your employees are off sick, you should not ‘bug’ them with what could feel like ‘intrusive’ phone calls or e-mails. Some even think that it could be classed as harassment to keep in regular contact with the sick employee.

But this is a myth.

What should be commonplace within the company is a feeling that contacting your employee shows that you, as an employer, care and are looking to get your employee healthy as quickly as possible. And the only way to do so is to keep regular contact.

In fact, keeping in regular contact will stand you in good stead if the case for one reason or another ends up in a tribunal The employee should be made to feel that you are merely ‘checking in on them’ as opposed to ‘checking up on them’. Your tone of voice and manner is crucial in this as if an employee feels worried or threatened by the impeding call, it is all too easy to ignore their phone and leave their managers guessing the details. This merely wastes time and energy as the company could be arranging help in the form of occupational health or even adapting the employee’s current working situation, ready for their arrival back at work.

The calls should be utilised to promote relevant employee benefits. For example, discounted gym memberships could really benefit employees with musculoskeletal or general long term health issues, a bicycle scheme could be of use to those who have problems with transport or your company may even have a scheme for child care which could help many employees struggling to juggle both work and children.

Letting employees know of relevant Private medical insurance (PMI) and Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) could also be of huge benefit if their absence is related to long waiting lists for local GPs and practitioners. Sending the employee through the private medical systems can speed up the process of returning to work which is of benefit to everyone involved.

One last important factor to discuss whilst chatting to your employee is the general company policy on absence. If your employee needs a sick note when they return, tell them. If they have to check in with certain line or department managers when sick as part of their contract, tell them. This is the time to let the employee know exactly where they stand with regards to sick pay and statutory time off. There should never be employees returning to work in confusion or in trouble for something they did not know was wrong.

As a general rule, contact should be made, from the employer to the employee, every 2 days (this of course is subject to the seriousness of the illness/ situation). However, for longer term illnesses, weekly contact should suffice.

If you need any help deciphering how and when to contact your employees when sick, please feel free to contact Honeydew Health for advice and/or even training. On the other end of the spectrum, if you feel your company could do more to help sick employees, Honeydew health provides information on or contact with Occupational Health professionals and a whole range of wellness services. Just ask us how we can help you.