When an employee is absent for an extended period due to an illness or injury, how their employer handles their return to work is critical. Mismanagement of an employee’s recovery process can lead to a delayed return and relapses. Employees may be anxious about returning to work or feel worried about falling ill again. How an employer communicates with the employee during an extended absence can make or break the employee’s return to work.
The Employer’s Responsibility to the Employee
Employers may think their job is done when they finish processing a worker’s compensation claim, but that’s not the case. Employers need to work with the employee and the employee’s doctor to develop a successful treatment plan. Part of that plan should include:
- An overall assessment of the employee’s work setting
- What available support exists for the employee
- If transitional work is an option
- How to adapt the employee’s job if possible
By addressing the above, employers can know what to expect when the employee returns. The employer can also help facilitate a safe return with a suitable timeframe.
Establish Frequent and Open Lines of Communication
Sick or injured employees are often afraid to return to work full time. If the last time they spoke to their boss was their first day off work, their anxiety will likely be through the roof. Employers should touch base with sick or injured employees often to keep up to date with their progress as well as any setbacks they encountered. Employers should also work with the sick or injured employee’s direct supervisor to make sure he or she understands the employee’s needs when returning to work.
Flexibility is of the Essence
When a sick or injured employee returns to the workplace, they aren’t likely to be at the top of their game. Expecting them to be at 100% of their previous productivity is unrealistic and likely to result in a setback. Some examples of return-to-work flexibility include allowing the employee to return on a reduced schedule, decreasing the employee’s number of duties, or allowing the employee to work from home a certain number of days per week. That being said, while it’s important for employers to support the employee as they return to work, they shouldn’t let the employee walk all over them either. Employees returning to work should be able to make measurable strides toward resuming their original workload.
Establishing a unique return-to-work plan for a sick or injured employee can help set the employee up for success and diminish the likelihood of a relapse. If your company’s return-to-work policy is lacking, Actec can help. Contact us to learn more about managing employee absences.