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Element 2: Keeping in contact

The guidance contained here was first published in 2004 and therefore makes no reference to the Fit Note. The majority of the guidance contained herein remains relevant, although readers will need to keep in mind the existence of the Fit Note in applying any potential recommendations.


Have you been in regular contact with your absent employee?

Key issues

How and when to get in contact

It is normally a key responsibility of line managers to keep in regular contact with any of their staff who are absent. They will know the individual and should be able to handle any sensitive issues. Don’t pass the responsibility to others unless there are sound reasons for doing so. Make sure your conversation with the absent employee is clearly focused on their health and well-being and their return to work. Try to focus as much on what the employee can do as well as things they may need help with.

Minor illness: When employees notify you of a minor illness that is likely to end within seven days further contact is not really necessary. However a Return To Work Interview will be useful to get people up to speed and to discuss any underlying issues if this sort of absence happens often.

Traumatic injury or sudden illness: Extend your sympathies and use discretion until the longer prognosis is known.

Planned treatment: Employees may welcome hospital visits but try to check with relatives first.

Stress: If you are notified that an employee is suffering from a stress-related illness make contact within a week. But it is unlikely they will be ready to discuss returning at this stage. Use discretion until the longer-term prognosis is known.

Communication Point

A Return To Work Interview gives you the chance to welcome your employee back to work, confirm that their record of absence is correct, and enables them to raise any remaining health or other issues that need addressing with your support. The main thing is to listen well and be objective. The employee may wish to have a third party present such as a Trade Union representative. A Return To Work Interview can also be a good opportunity to offer help to an employee if you feel they are unwell or behaving differently because of pressure of some kind - domestic or work related. If they become distressed, stay focused, give them time to recover and reassure them that you are listening and want to help.

Updated 2010-04-30