Career Clinic

I have an employee on long-term sick leave with mental
health issues. How do I maintain contact with them during their
absence without making them feel under pressure? How do I then
manage their return to work? Also, how do I make sure colleagues
don’t view their time off as malingering?

Employers must ensure that staff on long-term sick leave are
contacted regularly and offered support either by the line manager,
friend or a colleague to try to prevent them feeling alienated from
the workplace. Agree with the person the best way of maintaining
contact with them whether it is telephone or home visit, as well as
the frequency.

One of the best approaches to rehabilitation is to use a case
management process. This involves having an individual or
individuals, either from occupational health, HR or line
management, acting as a case manager responsible for an employee’s
rehabilitation. Too often people return to work without having
their rehabilitation managed closely enough and do not make a
successful recovery because they lack the necessary support.

In smaller organisations the role of case manager can be carried
out by a line manager providing they are supported by a
professional such as an occupational health adviser, GP or
occupational psychologist.

The manager should be involved in the rehabilitation process
from the beginning. Part of this may involve combating any negative
attitudes among the individual’s colleagues, which could otherwise
undermine their rehabilitation and prove damaging. 

Ben Willmott is employee relations adviser at the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development.

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