How to Manage Chronically Ill Employees with Excessive Absenteeism?

September 1, 20158:33 am1636 views

Employers are required to deal with employees who report continued illness for longer periods of time, prolonged medical conditions and disability at workplace. These issues need to be dealt with specific attention considering the seriousness of the case, facts and circumstances.

Managing chronic illness especially those that are persistent in nature or recurring, can be particularly challenging for employers since the nature of condition, symptoms, degree and frequency of recurrence is unpredictable.

Myriad long-lasting medical conditions are live issues calling for workplace litigation to include: wrongful dismissal claims involving frustration of contract and human rights complaint dealing with need to accommodate such employees in organisations.

In case of claims arising from a chronically-ill employee, employers are required to prove that – the illness was persistent in nature and continued unemployment will alter the nature of employment relationship.

Managing chronically ill employees at work is the responsibility of the employer, because in certain conditions that involve life-long sufferings, it is difficult for organisation to ask committed individuals to quit especially when they have to sustain their family needs and medical expenses that surmount during serious medical conditions.

Here are some tips that could help employers and HR managers alike to deal with chronically ill employees or those with prolonged medical conditions at work effectively:

  • Proactively engage with the employee to understand or estimate the stages or early signs of illness. Look for indications of employee’s health graph in patterned absenteeism. Many at times accommodating early on, can help avoid conflicts down the career road ahead.
  • Obtain relevant medical evidence to understand the condition of employee better and work collaboratively to specify limitations regards workload and workplace attitude towards the chronically ill employee. Follow up regularly with an employee and check for any updated information regards health check-ups with genuine care and concern.

See: Absenteeism Management: How to Reduce its Impact on Costs?

  • If the workload you think is unmanageable by an employee with a certain medical condition then consider accommodating them in another suitable job role within the company to control stress levels. If another immediate opening isn’t immediately available, provide them with a careful combination of productive tasks without disrupting the workplace dynamics.
  • Make detailed notes about managing the chronically ill employee(s) at work, such as accommodations considered, response of the employee towards the current medical condition, efforts made to accommodate that are reflecting (both good and bad) on the workplace culture etc.
  • Adopt a disability management approach, which emphasises on proactive work adjustments to include benefits such as shared job responsibility, flexible working hours or location, frequent breaks, shorter working days, slower work pace, reduced mental and physical demands etc.
  • Recognise the impact of employee’s illness on colleagues at work, if they accommodate and adjust to share the workload. Encourage the employee to share information about his illness to colleagues and peers at work, such that they can help reduce stress on job.
  • When an individual has taken a time off from work owing to medical reasons, conduct a return work interview and follow the company’s sickness absence policy. Report absences accurately and monitor staff absenteeism using the Business Intelligence system to ascertain its impact on the productivity goals.

By supporting employees with chronically ill health conditions, you can minimise the potential costs of long-term absence, staff turnover and loss of skills, thus encouraging productivity, facilitating job retention and quality of life.

Also read: HR Tech Trend: People Focused Time and Attendance Management System

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