Can I contact an employee on sick leave?
The short answer to “Can I contact an employee on sick leave?” will always be, it depends. The circumstances of the absence, the reason for the contact, and the relationship you have with the absent employee will to a large extent determine whether contacting them will be appropriate.
What do experts say when an employee leaves without notice?
The guidance from ACAS says,
“It’s important that both the employer and employee stay in regular contact during absence, especially if it’s long term.”
ACAS also advocates making sure that the arrangements for this contact are clear. You should ensure that agreement is reached on how often the contact should be, what format it will take, and who from the company will make contact. Full ACAS advice can be found at Keeping in touch during absence: Absence from work – ACAS
What factors should you consider?
Employers have a duty of care to their staff and that shouldn’t stop when they are absent. If an employee is absent for a day with a stomach bug then as long as they have followed your reporting procedures for telling you that they are absent, you’re not realistically going to need to contact them. The nature and potential length of the absence will therefore be a big factor in determining the contact you have with an absentee. The reason for the contact is also crucial. Ask yourself can this wait, can someone else answer the question, what do you want to achieve by contacting the employee?
You should also consider how any contact might make the absent employee feel. Could contact be seen as harassment or victimisation, could it aggravate the employee’s illness or could you be seen as exerting undue pressure on them to return to work? Conversely, by reaching out and contacting the employee, are you showing them that you genuinely care about them and want to support them, would your contact be welcomed and would it cheer them up if they are feeling lonely and isolated, could it help them to keep in touch with work to ease anxiety about returning.
Having a full picture of the circumstances, knowing the employee, and using your judgement are all vital here to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Can HR software help?
Your HR software will provide a great resource for you to provide information that will help you with conversations with absent staff. HRX’s absence recording facility will mean that you have an accurate, up-to-date absence history. If necessary, you can also pull an absence report off the system for the employee you are dealing with. HRX also holds a return to work interview template form in its Knowledge Base. Once completed, it can be loaded into your employee records so that you can gather further details about previous absences which may be related to the current situation. Additionally, the employee details section of HRX records if an employee has a disability so you can check there before getting in touch. It may be that the employee needs extra support which can be discussed during the contact.