Managing an ill health situation where an employee says they are too ill to talk, or attend meetings requires a careful and considered approach from managers and HR teams.
Suzanne Pipe, one of our experienced employment lawyers at Vista talks us through the right approach:
Explain how important communication is, and why
Keeping in touch is critical for many reasons; it enables you as the employer to gain an understanding of the condition, which in turn allows you to put your employee’s welfare first.
The first thing to do is explain the benefits to the employee of engaging in conversation and attending meetings if they are able to.
Explain your right to manage the sickness absence
Remember, you have the right to manage sickness absence, and you want to do this in the best way possible for both your organisation and the employee.
Look to see if there is anything you can do to facilitate a return to work. The extent and scope of the enquiries in to this will vary depending on the length of absence, the medical reason(s) for it, how long the absence will last and if and when the employee is likely to return to their normal duties.
When the Time is Right, Talk to OH
If the employee doesn’t want to meet or have a conversation after a reasonable amount of time has passed (approx. 4 weeks), it’s always good to offer to meet at a neutral venue or the employees’ home. You can also offer to have a family member present if this would make things easier for the employee.
If, however the employee is still hesitant to engage, you will need to consider getting some advice from your OH team and get consent from the employee for OH to review and assess the condition and the employee’s ability to talk/meet.
If the employee still can’t or won’t engage with you or OH, other alternatives would be for them to put forward written representations or give consent for you as their employer to contact their GP to obtain a report.
You should make clear to the employee that if they fail to engage, you, as the employer will need to decide how to proceed based on limited information Which may not be in their best interests.
If your managers are looking for a few pointers as to how to manage longer term sickness absence, try sharing this approach with them.
The content provided in this blog is for illustration purposes only and does not of itself constitute legal advice. It is your responsibility to ensure that these blogs are used in the correct context. Where tailored legal advice or further guidance is required it should be sought from a member of the Vista team.