Communication tips for the smooth reintegration of workers on long-term sick leave
Having staff on sick leave puts pressure on workplace productivity. When the period of absence exceeds one month, the risk of fade-out increases, meaning the employee may slowly fall off the radar and not return to work at all. Employers and supervisors can help prevent this from happening and can boost the reintegration process by maintaining regular contact with employees who are on long-term sick leave.
It is in everyone’s best interest to keep communication lines open, not only at the beginning and during the period of absence, but also after the employee on long-term sick leave has returned to work.
Beginning of the period of absence
Labour law stipulates in most cases that employees who are absent from work due to illness must notify their employer. At that time, the employee is under no obligation to reveal the nature of the illness. However, as an employer, you can inquire about the expected duration of the absence, given that you will need to make alternate arrangements at work. You can also inquire whether or not the illness is work-related.
- The employer or supervisor can alleviate the employee’s concerns and find out how often the employee would like to keep in touch during the period of absence.
- This is also a good time to agree on the exact information that will be communicated to co-workers.
Throughout the period of absence
Keeping in touch with employees on long-term sick leave lowers the threshold for them to return to the workfloor. This can be done in various ways, but in-home visits have shown to be the most effective.
- Regularly keep in touch and avoid prolonged periods of no contact.
- You and your colleagues could send a get well card to the employee on sick leave.
- Make sure to keep all confidential information confidential.
Return to work
It is important for the direct supervisor to sit down and talk to the employee shortly after his or her return to work. This will make the employee feel at ease and valued, and it will give him or her the opportunity to learn about any changes at work that took place during the period of absence. As an employer, you can support the employee by asking how you can personally help him or her find their way back into the work routine.
The information obtained from these meetings is especially useful when trying to prevent reoccurrence of long-term sick leave. Prevention is always better, and less costly, than cure.