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

When an employee is sick for more than one month, the risk of a fade-out increases. The employee gradually disappears from the picture and does not return. You can prevent fade-out by keeping in touch.

The number of long-term sick people in Belgium is approaching half a million. This is a huge loss for organisations. Moreover, in cases of long-term illness there is a risk of fade-out.

What is fade-out?

In this scenario, the employee slowly disappears from the picture. "The threshold for returning to work gets gradually higher," says Bart Teuwen, absenteeism expert and Managing Director of Certimed. “As a result, the employee loses contact with the company and does not return."

"That has several disadvantages. First of all, it puts pressure on productivity in your organisation and increases the workload for other employees. In addition, the replacement of the absent employee requires additional investments."

The remedy: keep in touch

Fortunately, you can take action to prevent fade-out. Keeping in touch with long-term sick employees reduces the risk of them dropping out permanently. This has been demonstrated by a survey of more than 200 HR professionals from companies with more than 100 employees.

The majority of the companies surveyed (around 83.5%) said they were already engaging in this type of activity. This includes telephone calls, e-mail conversations and home visits.

Bart Teuwen: "It is especially important that the supervisor remains in personal contact. The sick employee is then much more likely to return than if someone from the HR department were to do it."

How and when do you contact an absent employee?

In concrete terms, there are 4 key moments to communicate with a sick employee. But it is not only the times at which you make contact that are important, but also what you say and how you say it. Discover our communication tips for successful reintegration.

Keeping an open line of communication with your sick employee is the number one rule for a positive approach to absenteeism. Friendly and business-like at the same time, but keeping the right balance. By keeping in touch, you keep a finger on the pulse and have a better chance of lower absenteeism rates and - if necessary - successful reintegration.