How to prevent fade-out among long-term absentees?

Is regular contact between employers and workers on long-term sick leave an important factor for a successful return-to-work? Radio 1 programme Hautekiet asked listeners for their opinion. Erik Carlier, Director of Health at Mensura, was invited to the studio as a panel expert.

Companies with workers on long-term sick leave will benefit from keeping in touch with their workers during the period of absence. Failing to do so puts these employees at a higher risk of experiencing fade-out, a process that occurs when workers slowly fall off the radar and no longer return to work. This was demonstrated by the pilot study conducted by Mensura among 200 businesses.

Not only does this affect productivity levels within the company, it also means the employer will need to make a substantial investment to replace the absent employee. In addition, the longer the period of absence, the less likely the sick employee will return to work.

Increased likelihood of a return to work

There are some things companies can do to improve the situation. While maintaining regular contact with employees on long-term sick leave may not always accelerate the return-to-work process, it certainly seems to have a positive impact on the number of employees returning to work after a prolonged absence.  

“Keeping in touch works”

The host of Radio 1’s Hautekiet asked both workers and employers about their experiences with long-term illness, and about follow-up practices during these periods of absence. Dr. Erik Carlier: "Companies can definitely boost the employee’s reintegration process by keeping communication lines open throughout the employee’s absence. It is important for the employer not to give the impression that they believe the sickness is not genuine."

The good news is that most companies with more than 100 employees (83.5%) indicate that they maintain regular contact with employees on long-term sickness leave. However, more work is yet to be done. “Only 1 in 5 companies has implemented a comprehensive reintegration policy.”

“Keeping in touch with employees on long-term sick leave can be done in several ways, e.g. by sending a get well card, talking to them on the phone, sending a message on Facebook, etc. As long as there is some regularity in it.”

Listen to the broadcast (in Dutch)

Read also:
Staying in touch with employees on long-term sick leave is a good thing​
Communication tips for the smooth reintegration of workers on long-term sick leave