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Tackling long-term sickness absence: line managers are the key

20 August 2010 #Employment


There is new guidance available to help employers get their employees with depression, stress and other illnesses back to work in the first place.

The guidance, "Manager Support for Return to Work Following Long Term Sickness Absence", is just what it says - a framework to assist managers to support sick employees and encourage them to return to work early in their illness as part of their rehabilitation. The core tenet of the guidance is to avoid ill employees remaining at home for too long, as this very often leads to feelings of alienation from the workplace and long-term incapacity. Although this sounds like common sense, it is also supported by research conducted by a team of UK psychologists who discovered that employees absent from work for more than 6 months only have a 50% chance of returning to work.

This research led a collaboration of the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, CIPD, Healthy Working Lives and the HSE, to produce the guidance. It highlights key behaviours and skills which employers need to ensure managers are trained to implement, such as:

  • Staying in touch regularly when the employee is off sick
  • Reassuring the employee their job is safe
  • Providing a phased return to work
  • Asking the employee`s permission to keep the team informed on their condition
  • Encouraging colleagues to support the employee`s rehabilitation
  • Holding regular meetings to discuss the individual`s condition and the possible impact on their work

Hopefully this  pro-active approach will also be supported by GPs, who through the new "fit notes", are now encouraged to suggest ways an employer can assist an ill employee`s return to work on a phased or altered basis.

This guidance booklet is available from the CIPD website.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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