The Key to Successful Disability Leave – Communication!
When an employee is away on disability leave, it can cause both professional and personal turmoil for the employer. On one side, the employer must manage the employee’s duties while they are on leave either by redistributing them among the team or by hiring a temporary replacement. Additionally, there are the legal aspects to consider including making sure that all the appropriate forms and reports are completed (for example: WCB, STD, LTD or EI). On the other hand, there is the human aspect. A manager will want to know how to best show support for an injured employee but may feel nervous that they are crossing professional/personal boundaries.
So, how can an employer best show that level of support while still managing the logistics of an employee off work? Communication is key.
When does communication begin?
Ideally, communication should commence prior to an employee’s leave. In other words, it should be embedded in company policy. By implementing a policy that informs employees that their manager(s) will be in touch with them during extended sick leaves, the occasional phone call or email will not come as a surprise.
Depending on the employee, it may be better to establish scheduled calls. Believe it or not, most employees want to be kept in the loop while they are away; however, if they are already under stress due to an illness or injury, it is better practice to keep your contact with them predictable.
Who should communicate with the employee?
In most cases, it makes sense for an employee’s direct supervisor to do the bulk of the communication, but if there has been a conflict between employee and supervisor, then assigning another person may be better suited in specific situations.
Businesses also consider using a third-party company with disability management experts that can provide a layer of confidentiality between the employee and the employer while providing expert advice to help the employee get back on the road to recovery.
What should be communicated?
The first thing that should be communicated to an employee is that you care. This can be accomplished by simply asking how they are doing. Don’t ask for specific details that might pry into their privacy – but ask them how they are doing.
Ask if they are getting the help they need. Don’t assume your employee knows everything that is available to them through their benefits packages. Take some time to ensure that they are aware of the help that is available. Also, be sure to listen to see if you can assist with anything else they need. For example, would your employee be able to return to work sooner if they were offered accommodations or had provisions to take more frequent breaks? These are low-to-no cost solutions that might benefit you both.
Employees on leave may be experiencing feelings of anxiety or guilt for projects that they had to leave unfinished. Keeping an open dialogue can help relieve some of this stress while helping your employee to feel more connected to the company while they are away and to aid in an easier transition back to work.
Managing a sick or injured employee is never easy, but the right communication can go a long way to alleviate many issues. If you would like more guidance for your particular situation contact the professionals at TeksMed today.