How would you handle frequent short term absence of an employee with stress-related absence (not work related)? The person has declined offers to use company counsellor.
A meeting was held previously to assess whether there were underlying issues, but this was not followed up as no underlying issues were highlighted.
The line manager now wishes to address the absence. Although there are valid reasons for the absence, the employee is signed off each time (off for a couple of weeks then returning for 6 weeks then off again) and the employee keeps us informed.
I am thinking about having a return to work discussion, holding a meeting to address our concerns, following this up in writing requesting an improvement to attendance, and possibly sending to Occupational Health / requesting GP's report / advising the employee sees the counsellor.
Does anyone here have experience in dealing with similar cases?
You should continue as planned. I should insist on OH involvement which may draw out any disability issue
Sounds right to me. Whilst you need care around the potential disability issue, any employer is completely entitled to expect an employee to turn up for work.
I would build in to the process something written that points out that actions have consequences. I'm sure you can find the right way of articulating that.
I would also go along as planned, however, at the discussion, I would ask the employee (and have it noted) if there is anything you can do to support him coming to work (Thus fulfilling his contracted hours).
As the employee doesn't seem to be telling you that there are any underlying issues, I would (after talking with the OHA) take a decision based on the information at hand ie: short term persistant absence. Do you have a policy in place that issues warnings when absence is high and impacting colleagues and customers?
I've just joined the forum and recognise this situation. I'm a union rep and a colleague was invited in to discuss a series of short term stress-related absences. I would just advise that the employee can bring a colleague or union rep as appropriate to support her or him.
Whatever the cause of stress, the underlying factor is a feeling of being under too much pressure, and naturally a meeting with the 'boss' can feel like that, particularly when the subject is them. Be prepared for tears and offer breaks. Understand some of the symptoms of stress which will be affecting the employee at the meeting. Try this article: https://www.checkyourmood.com/content/stress
The fact the employee is not using a company counsellor does not mean they are not helping themselves, but you could suggest referral to a GP.
Also because the 'cause' of stress is not work-related, it might be aggravated by work and that is something to think about.
You should also be aware of the law so that if it comes to dismissal it can be justified. In the case of persistent short term absences, the absences need to be documented and the employee interviewed for their explanation. Whether they have become unacceptable depends on a number of factors. In the case of Lynock v Cereal Packaging Limited (1988) the court included:
Before a dismissal an employee must be made to realise that ‘the point of no return’ is approaching. But this should not be done in the manner of a warning or caution but with ‘sympathy, understanding and compassion.’
Thanks. I am conducting an absence review (outside of the disciplinary procedure) and will move on from there to disciplinary if necessary (at which point I would offer right to be accompanied etc, as the first meeting didn't have an outcome related to disciplinary - is this OK?).
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