Staff absences can provide an opportunity to reduce stress.
If a member of your staff is off work for more than a few days, the workload for other staff will increase and may in turn affect their health.
When an employee first notifies that they will be absent from work, take note of: the date and time of notification, the reason for absence and the expected date of return to work. Anyone off work through illness for more than five days should obtain a sickness absence note from their GP.
Managers should maintain contact with absent staff - contact should be made at least every two weeks.
If the absence is linked to workplace practices, such as poor health and safety or long working hours, these must be addressed. Creating a positive and more flexible working environment in which staff feel valued and respected will improve staff motivation and reduce unnecessary stress.
Having identified the cause and estimated how long the employee is likely to be absent, staffing levels need to be assessed. Can other staff cover for their absent colleague without being overloaded? Should the company employ a temp? Does it have a budget for this? Will the temp need training?
When the member of staff returns, the manager should conduct a non-punitive 'return to work' interview. This is an opportunity to express concern for the employee and it will help identify any problems.
Jane Huntley is manager of the HEA's Workplace Health Programme, 0171 413 1873.