Staying in touch with employees on long-term sick leave is a good thing


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. To help prevent this, Mensura has rolled out a new service: Return Calls.

Long-term absenteeism due to illness is an ongoing problem for businesses. A pilot study conducted by Mensura External Department for Prevention and Protection in the Workplace among 200 companies has shown that in 56% of those with over 100 employees, more than 10 employees are absent from work for more than one month each year.

In addition, 65% of those employees on long-term sick leave are absent from work for more than 3 consecutive months. Only 19% of the companies that participated in the study reported that all employees return to work after their absence. The study also revealed that making personal contact – preferably by the supervisor or manager – will increase the chance of a successful return to work.

First burnout, then bore-out, now fade-out

Contrary to short-term sickness absence (lasting less than one month), long-term absenteeism due to illness often creates a risk of fade-out, which means the employee may slowly fall off the radar. The longer the period of absence, the less likely he or she will return to work. 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.  

Keeping in touch: a key role for supervisors

However, there is more that employers can do to help prevent fade-out among long-term absentees. Though it won’t accelerate the return-to-work process, keeping in regular contact with employees throughout their period of absence does seem to have a positive impact on the number of workers returning to work.   

Erik Carlier, Director of Health at Mensura: “Keeping in touch with employees who are on long-term sickness absence can be done in various ways. Companies often use a combination of different methods, but in-home visits have shown to be the most effective. Our study also revealed that, in terms of percentages, a greater number of workers on long-term sick leave will return to work when regular contact is maintained by the direct supervisor.”

Mensura’s Return Calls: facilitating the reintegration process

To provide extra support to clients who are facing high levels of absenteeism due to long-term illness among their workforce, Mensura has rolled out a new service: Return Calls. The Return Calls service helps employers keep in regular contact with long-term absentees to facilitate their return to work. The service can easily be incorporated into a broader reintegration programme.

“The employer can initiate the reintegration journey as soon as the employee has been absent due to illness for a period exceeding four consecutive months. The employer is also responsible for drawing up the reintegration plan. Keeping in touch with the absent employee will certainly help with this. Sixty-seven percent of companies who have a reintegration policy embedded in their HR strategy reported a successful return to work for more than three out of four employees on long-term sick leave.”

About the study

Mensura partnered with Profacts for this pilot study in which a total of 200 HR professionals from companies with more than 100 employees participated. Half of these companies are clients of Mensura. The study regions included Flanders (60%), Wallonia (30%) and Brussels (10%).

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