If you have an employee who is off sick and you have made a number of attempts to contact them but they just aren’t answering the phone, what can you do?

Employee Absence Management

An employee calling in sick is the trigger for line managers to consult and follow the company sickness absence policy and procedure. However, effective absence management starts at a much earlier stage than that initial phone call and day of absence.

Setting clear expectations during induction is key so employees know what they need to do if they are absent from work for any reason. Equally, this is an opportunity to clearly outline how you, as the employer, will support employees with the aim of reducing absences and the expectation that you will be in contact.

When employees are off sick, it is important to keep a line of communication open so that you can understand the reasons for their absence, what medical advice has been sought and what the road to recovery involves. All of this information will help you reach some conclusions about the length of their absence, what contingency arrangements you might need to make operationally and also if they are likely to need some additional support on their return to work.

Good practice for communicating with absent employees

Some employees think that when they are off sick, their employers should not contact them at all, so they will not pick up their phone. It is important that you know what you can and cannot do in that situation. The first important rule is that as an employer you should act reasonably at all times. Therefore, you can contact them whilst they are off sick; however, continually ringing them up or perhaps calling late at night would not be classed as reasonable.

Agreeing in advance when you will make contact and the best way to reach your employee when they are absent from work can improve your success.

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Is your employee avoiding you?

We realise how frustrating it can be when the employee doesn’t appear to be answering their landline or mobile phone. However, experience has taught us that it is important not to assume that they are avoiding you. They could be hospitalised or at another location without a (charged) mobile phone. It is also possible that their contact details have changed, so it is helpful to periodically ask employees to check and confirm their personal information to prevent this problem.

We would advise sending an email or a letter asking them to contact you. It is also worthwhile reminding them of your absence reporting procedure. If no response comes forward then call their emergency contact, asking them to contact your employee and urge them to ring their place of work. It is important that you don’t pass on any details to the emergency contact, just keep it short and to the point to avoid breaching confidentiality.

Keep detailed Absence Records

Record all your attempts to contact your employee because these records could come in useful for you at a later date if a disciplinary hearing is required. We usually find that the letter you send will do the trick and they will get in touch soon afterwards.

Absence records should also include the dates and duration of absence in order to accurately process company or statutory sick pay and fairly escalate to disciplinary action if necessary, in the event of unauthorised absence from work or if absence trigger points such as a high Bradford Factor score have been reached.

Have a sickness policy

It is key that your policies, procedures and templates are up to date to manage a situation such as this, consistently and swiftly. If you have introduced home or hybrid working, it is important that your policies and procedures reflect your Company’s working practices. There may be the option to work from home if the employee cannot attend the office due to minor illnesses or injuries such as a stomach bug. However, it is important that employees do take a sick day if they are not fit to work.

This can all seem a little daunting but you don’t need to employ an HR person to manage your policy and procedure management, or designate this work to another role within your team. Our Online HR Toolkit is designed for businesses to have continual access to the most up to date employment contracts, handbooks, HR documents and templates via an online portal. Of course, a member of our team will be on hand to discuss any particular issues or queries, but the Toolkit undoubtedly takes the administration, research and people resource out of keeping your HR ship in order.