#Working Wisdom #Human Resources

Is It Okay To Call An Employee Who Is Off Sick?

by Danial
Jan 08, 2019 at 10:04 AM

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It's not too difficult to deal with the odd sick day as it is something HR is used to dealing with. But what happens when an employee falls ill for longer than just a few days? Is it right to call them, or should you let them heal in peace?


Trust your employees

It is important to trust employees and let them get the time off when they need it. Trust plays a vital role in getting the most out of a team. It is not recommended to contact sick employees, unless it is something truly important and work related.


HR has a duty

While it is a good intention to leave employees to get on with their illness, one has to remember that in most cases, employees would rather be working than be sick. An employer has a duty to care to keep in touch with sick employees and see how they are doing.


A quick phone call can be very helpful

For an employee, receiving a call from their employer while off could be what they need to relieve their fears. While employers should be interested in the welfare of their employees, employees should also care for their employer.

The phone call was a chance for employees to remove any doubts over their absence, while making sure people were getting on fine without them.


When calling, use common sense and tact

How far should you go in calling sick employees about work-related matters?

Employers need to use tact and common sense if someone is off sick, and exercise caution before contacting an individual.

Here are a few points employers should consider before contacting an employee who is on sick leave:

  1. Why do you need to contact the employee

  2. Will the employee's illness be aggravated by receiving a phone call?

  3. Is your query urgent, or can it wait for their return?

  4. Has the employee been initiating communication during their absence?

  5. Could the nature of your contact be seen as victimisation?

  6. Are you putting the employee under pressure to return to work before full recovery?


Give employees space but do not exclude them

If an employee is faced with a more sensitive illness such as long-term mental health issues, it is usually best to avoid contacting them. The most important thing to do is assess their background in order to make an informed decision.

Employers should continue to include employees so they won't feel isolated. But be careful not to include them to the point where they feel pressured into returning to work too soon. Employers should also refer to the company handbook to see if there are specific rules in place regarding sickness in the workplace


How to respond to a phone call from work when you're recovering?

The problem with 'using your judgement' is that is not easy to know how each employee might respond to a phone call during sickness downtime. Imagine you were off work sick. How would you respond if your boss called to:

  • Remind you a project was overdue?

  • Ask where to find an important file?

  • Find out when you were coming back?

  • See if anything could be done to help with your recovery?

  • Ask if you would mind coming in for one day?


By putting yourself in your employees' shoes, you may find that you already have the answer to this question.

On the other hand, if you suspect misconduct regarding MCs, read this: How to Stop Your Employees from Faking MC and Abusing Sick Leaves


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This article is based on Can you contact an employee when they are off sick? By John Crowley