No employer looks forward to a worker having to take a medical leave of absence — long-term illness is not what anyone wishes for. Unfortunately, getting sick, encountering health issues, and occasionally going on a medical leave of absence cannot be avoided. We have the interesting case of COVID-19 as an example.
While planning for this is not something we look forward to, businesses need to be prepared for the ‘what if’ circumstances.
So what are the factors to consider when dealing with an employee’s illness or a leave of absence? It’s important to note the most pressing matters to sort out as soon as an employee reports sick. This will help you stay out of trouble by ensuring you comply with the state’s regulations on reporting the employee, while also ensuring that your business processes are not adversely affected. Trust us, this is not Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; this is the real deal.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
Establish Your Sick Policy
You need to have a set policy in place for the case of falling ill, and everyone in the company must be well versed with it. And this is not just for doing sake. Expectations and requirements regarding attendance and gathering more information on illness will assist supervisors in organizing the workload of the employee who is out of office due to being ill. This will also keep you in the loop of what’s going on with the sick employee, regardless of how long it’ll take for them to recover from their medical leave of absence. Just don’t overwhelm them with the constant communication, or you risk stressing them out more, potentially causing them to be out longer.
Allocate Accordingly And Plan
There is no need for the dramatics and rushing into redistributing work if an employee is down with the flu and absent for a short time. They just need to be checked on. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if the employee is absent for an extended period if the illness is pretty severe. If this is the case, start with a plan. Redistributing the work with colleagues and other employees on the employee’s team is a great start. Asking yourself and even the team what tasks the ill employee worked on and who is the next person who can take over, given their capacity, of course, will help get things back on track. If done correctly, this will ensure work continuity.
In addition, this will be the groundwork for a good succession plan if you don’t already have one. This will come in handy during any absences, and you will be able to see who is skilled enough to step in and who has the most time to take on a few extra tasks. However, with all things, we must balance. We don’t want to overwork and overwhelm the other team members, so ensuring you are there for support and help will be essential while the team gets through this time.
Make Helpful Resources Available
Unfortunately, employees cannot just up and leave for an extended period, only to show up again when they’re ready. The employee’s absence will have to be recorded and registered. From apps to tools, many resources are there to simplify this necessary activity of registering and recording absences. This is key to note as there is a possibility of a waiting period before going on short-term disability (if required). If there are no more sick days to cover this gap period, vacation or unpaid days may need to be used.
Further to this, we need to ensure that they have all the key contact information and resources about the company’s health care benefits. This ensures that depending on their diagnoses, they have the care and external resources at hand to get better as quickly as possible. Finding time for your HR Manager or Outsourcing Partner to speak with them and walk them through any essential points of the plan or process will make the process smoother and allow the employee to feel supported while on their medical leave of absence.
Have A Contingency Plan
Beyond finding short-term help amongst the team, looking for who can take on the role or responsibilities on a longer-term basis may need to be considered. Starting this does not need to be a daunting task. Unfortunately, with long-term illness, it comes with a lot of uncertainty about when the employee will report back to work. The following essential step is to find out who is trained and skilled enough to take over the functions of the ill employee.
The last resort is having a solid pipeline of great candidates available if the employee in question cannot return. An effective way of doing this is by tracking the performance and potential of individual employees. Asking yourself important questions on who has been taking the initiative, who is good at thinking on their feet, and versatile skills will help you identify those potential employees. This would prepare you well for the worst-case scenario.
Don’t let a medical leave of absence and illnesses within your team catch you off guard. Being prepared ahead of time is important to ensure business continuity and the right priorities are managed. Work closely with your HR Manager or Outsourcing Partner to ensure you have an updated illness policy and that it is shared and understood within your business.