Does Your Business Have A Long-Term Sickness Policy?

6 Mins read

One of the biggest issues that every business will face is coping with employee sickness. Even if a worker takes just one day off to get over a brief illness, the effect will certainly be felt across the company. The other employees who work closely with the individual will have to take the strain as they take over some of their ill colleague’s work for the day. Preparation for various meetings and projects could end up being pushed back as a result. Not only could this affect your company’s productivity, though, but it will also be expensive for you as well. That’s because you will have to pay them a full day’s wage even though they aren’t in the office.

business policy on long-term sickness

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But what happens if one of your workers gets very sick and ends up being diagnosed with an illness or health condition that would result in them taking a prolonged period of time off work? This could be bad news for your company, as it could throw a spanner into productivity and your finances. There is one solution to dealing with long-term sickness, though – you just need to create a policy that outlines how these situations should be dealt with. This is a useful resource for both you and your employees, as it ensures that everyone is on the same page as to how any long-term illnesses will be managed. It also gives employees peace of mind knowing that there are some processes set in place should they ever fall seriously ill.

Here are some tips that can help you devise a thorough long-term sickness policy for your company.

Set Out Expectations

First of all, you need to set out expectations. These are expectations for yourself, your managers, and any employees who end up on the sick for a long time. Everyone will have responsibilities that they will need to uphold, so you need to make sure that everyone is clear about what they need to do in this situation. For example, employees and their managers will need to keep in touch during the worker’s absence from the office. It is the responsibility of both parties to touch base with one another. Not only that, though, but managers and the company leader are responsible for preventing any discrimination that could arise as a result of the absence. If any discrimination is spotted in the office, such as towards a colleague who is currently on maternity leave, then it needs to be stamped out as soon as possible.

Clarify Employees’ Long-Term Sick Payment

One thing that your employees will want to know is how much they can expect to be paid while on an extended leave of absence due to sickness. You are obliged to pay them statutory sick pay while they are off for a set period of time. Once they are off for longer than this, it is up to you whether you continue paying them the same, reduce their wage, or stop paying them altogether. In most cases, once the statutory sick pay period is over, employers reduce the wage by half for around a month before cutting it completely. Hopefully, most employees will see this dramatic reduction in their wages as an incentive to return to work. You need to set out this payment information in your long-term sickness policy so that there is no doubt in employees’ minds about how much money to expect when off work.

Consider Taking On A Replacement

One of the most difficult questions that a company will face when one of their workers is off for a long time is whether they should hire a temporary replacement. This often happens when employees are off to have a baby – it is very common for companies to look for maternity cover. However, the question can be a lot more difficult to answer when a worker is off because of a more serious illness. If there is no set date for their return, then it could be worth hiring someone on a temporary part-time basis to take care of some of the slack caused by the missing employee. You need to be very careful when finding a temporary replacement as it could frustrate the employee who is sick if they find out about it. After all, it may appear to them that you are replacing them.

Ask For Medical Evidence

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your employee to provide some medical evidence when they do announce that they will be off for a long period of time. In most cases, you will need to see evidence from a doctor confirming the illness if someone is off for more than seven days. Every doctor will be able to provide their patients with a sick note when asked and if appropriate to give to the sick individual, so this shouldn’t be a problem for someone who is genuinely ill to get. In the note, the doctor will usually recommend the length of time that the individual will need to take from work. Every sick note will be valid for a set length of time. If the employee requires to be off longer than this set time, they will need to supply you with a new sick note.

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Consider Letting Them Work Remotely

If your employee is suffering from a physical disability but is still mentally fit and has plenty of energy, they may be able to work a little from home. This helps them keep in touch with the office so that, when they do return fully, they will still be aware of the work that they need to carry out and won’t be so shocked by any big changes that occurred during their sick leave. Now that it is possible to easily send large files and share documents using cloud platforms, collaborating with an employee who is off shouldn’t throw up too many issues. Other online tools and platforms, including Slack and Google Drive, can help them to message and work with their colleagues who are still in the office. You will find that if you encourage employees to work remotely while ill, as long as they are physically able to, then it will make their eventual return to the office a lot easier.

Set Some Trigger Points Before Reviewing Sickness Leave

There could be times when employees try to abuse their sick leave. For instance, someone might try to stay off work for a period of time even once they are fully recovered. In these cases, once you realize that the individual is actually abusing their time off, you should call for a review which could lead to disciplinary action. To help you figure out if someone is taking advantage of their sick leave, you should come up with some trigger points that could alert you to this. It’s also worth carrying out some reviews during their absence to try to see whether they really do need to be off work. For example, you could hold a meeting with the individual in person, or organize a phone call with them if they aren’t able to make it to the office.

Allow Employees to Return to Work in Phases

When someone is almost ready to return to work, you will need to discuss their return to the office with them. It could be a bit of a shock to the system to return on a full-time basis straight away, so it’s a good idea to suggest them phasing in their return. For instance, they might want to return part-time to start off with, or simply work two or three days a week, before increasing their hours eventually.

Set Up Interviews Before the Return to Work

It is crucial to set up a back-to-work interview with the individual in question before they do set foot in the office again. Their line-manager or supervisor should carry out this interview with them. It gives them a chance to get back up to speed with the workings of the office, and their manager can outline any changes that might have taken place during their absence. It also gives the employee a chance to voice any concerns that they might have and ask if any adjustments or special arrangements could be put in place if their health still isn’t back to 100%.

Think About Offering Early Retirement in Extreme Cases

There could be some instances of employees who struggle with a chronic illness that could prove to be too debilitating for them to return to work. In these cases, you need to consider whether offering them early retirement due to poor health is the best option for them. This allows them to retire from the company earlier than planned. It also makes it possible to take advantage of all the financial perks of retiring, such as drawing their pension.

Dealing with an employee who is on long-term sickness leave can be very difficult for most managers and business owners. However, if you have a strong policy for this in place, then it should be easier for you to manage.

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Ryan Kh is a big data and analytic expert, marketing digital products on Amazon's Envato. He is not just passionate about latest buzz and tech stuff but in fact he's totally into it. Follow Ryan’s daily posts on Catalyst For Business.