Dealing with an employee on long-term sick leave

The health of your employees is a huge concern for any business owner. If they aren’t in good health then they won’t be effective in the workplace and they’re more likely to have time off. The occasional sickness doesn’t cause any major problems for you but if you have employees that are on long-term sick leave, you could end up losing money due to a lack of manpower in the office.

You have to be pragmatic in these situations but at the same time, you need to treat your employees fairly. Striking a balance between the two is the key to effectively dealing with long-term illness in your employees.

Can they return to work?

Before making any decisions this is the first question you should ask them. If they have an illness that they will eventually make a full recovery from, the best thing for you to do is get them back to work. Keeping a trusted employee that knows the job inside out is always preferable to hiring somebody new.

See if you can incorporate aspects of their job into other people’s roles on a temporary basis or get a new person in short-term until your employee is ready to come back. You can also discuss what work they could do from home as well.

However, if they’ve got a health issue like chronic fatigue that makes it difficult for them to return to work again, you’re going to need to look into replacing them entirely. Sometimes this is an issue for a few reasons. In some situations, they might struggle to get financial assistance if they’re not at work so you need to think about whether they can get by without the job. If they can’t, you should always try to work something out.

Replace them

When you’ve exhausted all other options and there’s no way that they’re going to be able to come back to their old job, you need to replace them. If you can’t afford to hire a completely new employee, you’ll have to look internally. Review all of your current employees and see if you can identify one or two that have a fairly limited workload.

It’s often the case that as new technologies take over certain parts of a person’s role, their workload reduces to a level that doesn’t require a full-time employee. By combining some of these roles you free up staff and one of them can take over the vacant position. This is also a good opportunity to streamline your staff a little and promote some promising workers.

Get rid of the job

Like I said before, some tasks have been taken over by new computer systems, but in some cases, entire jobs have been rendered obsolete. For example, a mailroom operative in the office is something that you don’t necessarily need a full-time employee for because the amount of digital communications far outweighs physical letters.

When you’ve got an employee off sick, use it as a chance to review the job and see whether it could be automated in any way. You might be able to get rid of it completely or automate some aspects making it a part-time position instead.

Always try to work out a solution that works for both you and your employee but where that isn’t possible, look into replacing them or eradicating their role entirely.