It’s not a surprise that from time to time your employees will get sick. People get sick; it’s simply a fact of life. But employee absenteeism due to illness or other unexpected reasons can put your business in a difficult situation.
Consider this scenario: an employee calls in on a Monday morning and says he isn’t well and won’t be in that day. That one day stretches to two, then four and suddenly it’s the middle of the following week and, as an employer, you’re thinking ‘what’s going on here?’ and ‘what do I do now?’
This type of situation puts you, as the employer, in an awkward reactive position. Call that employee to find out what’s going on and he may feel as if his privacy is being violated or as if he’s being pressured back to work; don’t call that employee and wonder whether you’re being taken advantage of or whether there’s something more serious you should be concerned about. Both actions require ad hoc decisions often made in isolation.
Without a sick leave policy that is consistently applied across the board to every absence, regardless of the reason, these situations simply become reactive, case-by-case issues. How one ill employee is treated may be different than how another ill employee is treated.
Creating an Employees Absenteeism Management Program
Instead, employee absenteeism should be managed proactively with a clear absenteeism management program. Such a program contains the process in which to implement the steps in managing absenteeism from onset to conclusion. It is a key factor in preventing long-term disability claims and controlling your related employee benefit plan claims and costs while also giving your employee the attention and support they deserve.
An employee absenteeism management program should be created and executed in consultation with an absence management consulting service. As an objective third-party, these service providers step in early and strategically by having a private conversation with the employee (while respecting legislated privacy) to identify medical and non-medical issues and give the employee the impartial support they need.
“In the past, employees have been isolated from participating in a defined process. For example, they may not fully understand their role, responsibility and obligation to mitigate their condition; or the fact that they are responsible to resume their employment as soon as medically possible. In some instances, the employee is not properly treated or referred to appropriate treatment required to improve their status to return to work, causing a prolonged absence,” says Lucy Cormier, President of Partners Disability Management, Inc., a third-party that we, at Thorpe Benefits, often refer our clients to. Lucy and her team understand that the invaluable benefit of adopting such practices is the ability to remain consistent—a structure is in place and there is no confusion in application of practices in the process.
With a sick leave policy in place there is no human decision necessary as to when to call an employee or who should place that call; if it’s in the policy, the fact that a call will be placed is simply a given. The process built into the absenteeism management program is what navigates the management of that absence to reduce risk liability and achieve a win-win for the employee and the employer.
It’s done out of a place of care and support, not out of a place of distrust or dispute.
The third-party service provider can confidentially assess the situation, help coordinate care for the employee, check in with the employee on a regular basis, discuss return-to-work accommodations, and keep you apprised of the employee’s status and next steps without breaching the employee’s privacy.
It means someone is working in your corner to keep you out of the dark while also working in your employee’s corner to help them safely return to work.