This is an occasional dilemma for both Human Resources and Occupational Health. Employers are often nervous of talking to an employee when they are off work. There is still the view, although it is becoming less common, that if they are unwell, they should be left at home to recover and not be troubled. More often than not though, the employee is wondering why no-one has bothered to call and feeling a bit isolated.

The situation becomes more difficult if the employer is unsure about the reason for the employee absence or if there has been a grievance, stress or breakdown in communication. I’m sure you have all had experience of cases where an employee is off work with stress and blames this on the employer.  There may also be a disciplinary issue and the employer wants to talk to them informally about this or call a more formal hearing.  But, because the employee is signed off, there is concern as to whether they are fit enough to attend.  Well, if you can say “yes” to the following then yes they are and calling a meeting is a reasonable course of action. the criteria are:

1)    The employee understands the situation and possible employment implications

2)    They are able to follow proceedings

3)    They are able to defend themselves or instruct another person to do so

4)    They can understand the final verdict or outcome.

Illness or absence needs to be taken seriously and managed professionally but should not be a barrier to running your business.