Talking to employees about their health

As an employer, it is, of course, important to achieve the highest level of attendance possible. After all, by preventing and reducing sickness absence, you can reduce business costs and increase productivity.

One of the best ways of managing sickness absence is to create a positive and healthy working environment for your employees. Although there are various ways of managing sickness absence, two of the most effective are early intervention and good communication with employees.

Can communication prevent absence?

In order to ensure effective management of health and safety in the workplace and help prevent absence, or at least minimise the effects of absence, it is important to talk openly and honestly to your employees.

If you encourage an open and honest environment, where people can discuss sensitive issues and concerns, you should be able to identify issues early and may be able to prevent staff absence.

You can help prevent absence by:

  • showing your staff respect and appreciation;
  • consistently treating all staff fairly and compassionately;
  • promoting a positive health and safety culture;
  • allowing staff to voice their views and concerns.

By making your staff feel valued in their roles, you will build a dedicated, committed workforce, a workforce that will be less likely to take sick leave.

Tell employees about your sickness absence policy

After creating a sickness policy, with the full cooperation of your employees, it’s important that you make your staff aware of it.

It’s also important that management fully understand how to implement an absence policy. However, it can be equally as important to apply discretion and common sense in certain circumstances when dealing with absence.

By showing your staff compassion and understanding, you are likely to build more trust, and make staff less likely to take time off work.

Temporary or permanent changes can prevent absence

Reducing or altering a regular work pattern for a member of staff may help prevent absence. If an employee has been off work, their GP may issue a fit note indicating that the employee is fit to return to work with restrictions or with reasonable adjustments.

Altering work patterns and hours can help the employee to remain in work or return to work after a period of absence. However, this is one of many support mechanisms that employees may find useful.

Others include:

  • counselling/employee assistance programmes;
  • a referral to occupational health services (the referral service through Fit for Work is currently being rolled out across England and Wales and will allow employers to refer their employees for an assessment by an occupational health professional in order to support them to return to work);
  • a formal phased Return to Work Plan;
  • additional training and/or support on return to work.

Find out more about supporting a return to work by making adjustments.