As a managerial and re-integration expert at Corporate Health Solutions (CHS) at Medwork we quite regularly are confronted with questions from employers, unions and employees about sickness absence and related policy choices. After an explanation about a number of examples of ‘best practices’ and the current issuing of rules, our customers in the Dutch Caribbean often choose to organize training sessions for managers and information sessions for their employees. “Is that the way it works?” is the response we get during the sessions. “Our people should also be informed about this.”
Training sessions for managers and information sessions for employees are very useful because managers usually underestimate their role as a concerned absence councilor. Employees, in their turn, often overestimate the role of doctors and medical specialists during a period of sickness absence. We regularly hear from managers that they are not doctors and therefore do not want to have anything to do with the absence through illness. The employees generally think that they have the right to sickness absence. But both parties are wrong.
Role of the Manager
A manager is the most prominent supervisor and/or coach an employee will experience during his or her career. The evolving connection between these two parties has an enormous impact on the productivity of a company. In that light, doesn’t it seem strange that the same manager suddenly is not available when an employee reports sick for whatever reason or cause? And as is the case right at the moment something happens and this employee might be in need of help. So our advice is: doctor or no doctor simply be there for your employees at the moments they need you the most and learn how to handle this as carefully as possible. Because what has to be done or must be done, can be learned. Moreover, you will notice that much more can be done and is allowed than you had ever thought possible. The impact of the involvement of a manager on the counselling process during the sickness absence should not be underestimated. It demonstrably has much more influence on the availability of employees than that of all the doctors involved, including the company doctors.
Role of the Employee
Employees often think, as has been mentioned before, that they have the right to sickness absence and this is confused with the right to report sick.In fact, the moment an employee reports sick, he or she does not comply with his or her contract obligations anymore.The employee actually says: “We have agreed that I was going to work for a salary, but today I am not coming to work and so I do not comply with the agreed contract obligations. The reason? I am sick “. But is that person really sick? Is the absence legitimate?
You see, the employer must decide whether payment of salary can be justified without the reception of the agreed employment. Suppose this is not the first time and someone reports sick because his or her child is ill. Is the employee sick as well because of the ill child? Doctors still have not found a medicine for this ‘disease’. As expert counselors we can mention more examples of non-medical causes for sickness absence which employees use to report sick. But that discussion is, in fact, mainly about correct manners and ways to react. The best way, however, is just to be honest. The employer, in his or her turn, should make sure that employees can and dare to show the necessary openness. We call that an organization with healthful working conditions. Somebody who is suddenly confronted with a calamity at home and/or has to perform a care duty, just happens to be in a difficult situation and can really use the understanding and care of his or her employer in those moments. An employer shall have to consider it very carefully, but most of the time it will be possible to accommodate the absence in consultation with a good team. Employers will be surprised to see how much understanding employees can muster for their position. So arrange it in a different way. No sickness absence, but for example a form of leave of absence. Organize a possibility for a leave of care, calamity or something else and learn to react to this in the right way. The understanding for somebody’s absence contributes to an understanding reaction of the team which maintains a more positive atmosphere within the team.
So react sharply and correct on sick reports and learn how to discuss it with each other. By doing so organizations will get back so much more. There is proof
in abundance. Thus: BAN KWIDA PA OTRO! (Start taking care of eachother)