Effective Management of Sick Employees: Strategies for Empathy, Compliance, and Communication

Posted On

June 26, 2023

Posted By

Kylie Thomas

Managing sick employees can be challenging for employers, particularly when the illness is serious and long term. It is crucial for employers to prioritise empathy and understanding while complying with legal requirements and maintaining effective communication. In this article, we will explore effective strategies for managing sick employees, including the importance of empathy, legal considerations, flexible arrangements, workload management, and communication.

Prioritising Empathy and Understanding

When faced with managing an employee who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, empathy and understanding must be prioritised. It is important for employers to recognise the impact that illness can have on an individual’s physical and mental well-being. By fostering a culture of empathy, employers can create a supportive environment that helps employees navigate through their illness while maintaining their dignity and productivity.

The Importance of Communication

Open and regular communication is key when dealing with sick employees. It is essential to establish channels of communication that allow employees to feel comfortable discussing their health and any concerns they may have. By maintaining open lines of communication, employers can better understand the needs and limitations of their sick employees, which in turn helps in implementing appropriate support measures.

Employers must be aware of legal requirements when managing sick employees. The Fair Work Act 2009 outlines conditions that employers should consider:

  • Personal/Carer’s Leave: The Act provides employees with the right to take paid personal/carer’s leave when they are unfit for work due to illness or to provide care or support to a family member. The entitlement varies based on employment status, and it is essential to understand the provisions of the employee’s modern award or workplace agreement.
  • Protection from Dismissal: Employers must not dismiss an employee because of temporary absences due to illness or injury. Termination of an employee with illness-related absences can be risky, and seeking professional advice is recommended to ensure compliance with the law.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Depending on the circumstances, various flexible work arrangements can be put into place to support sick employees. These arrangements may include:

  • Changes to Working Hours or Days: Modifying the employee’s working hours or days to accommodate medical appointments or treatment schedules.
  • Work from Home Options: Allowing employees to work from home when their condition allows for remote work.
  • Modified Duties: Temporarily assigning alternative duties that align with the employee’s capabilities during their recovery period.
  • Additional Support and Training: Providing additional training or mentoring to help the employee transition back to work effectively.

Employers should discuss these options with the employee and consider any medical recommendations or limitations to ensure a smooth transition and support their overall well-being.

Workload Management and Support

Managing the workload of sick employees can be challenging, particularly for small businesses. Employers may consider redistributing tasks among existing employees, hiring temporary staff, or contracting external assistance to help manage the workload. It is essential to maintain clear communication with the sick employee about the workload adjustments and ensure that they feel supported throughout their recovery.

Creating a Supportive Work Environment

Supportive work environments are crucial for managing sick employees effectively. Employers should prioritise open and honest communication, ensuring that employees feel comfortable discussing their health and ongoing fitness to undertake their role. Confidentiality regarding health matters is paramount and should be maintained in the workplace. By fostering a culture of support, understanding, and respect, employers can create an environment that promotes employee well-being and recovery.

Impacts on Businesses and the Importance of Support

The impacts of managing sick employees extend beyond the individual level and can have significant implications for businesses. Consider the following statistics:

  • According to a study by BankWest, the average annual cost of sick leave for small-to-medium-sized enterprises in Australia is almost $20,000 each year.
  • Since 2010, the rate of absenteeism across the country has risen by 7%, with as much as 5% of the Australian workforce calling in sick on any given day.
  • High levels of absenteeism due to illness can lead to reduced employee engagement, decreased team morale, and increased stress for those covering the workload.

By prioritising the effective management of sick employees, businesses can minimise disruptions, maintain productivity, and foster a positive work environment.

DreamStoneHR: Your Partner in Employee Support and Compliance

At DreamStoneHR, we understand the complexities of managing sick employees and creating a supportive work environment. Our team of HR experts can provide guidance, policies, and programs to support your organisation in effectively managing sick employees while ensuring compliance with employment laws. We can work with you to develop customised strategies that address the unique needs of your employees and help promote their well-being.

Prioritise Employee Well-being and Compliance

Contact DreamStoneHR today to learn more about our services and how we can support your organisation. We are passionate and dedicated to supporting businesses with their people.

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