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Managing Long-Term Absence in Ireland: Best Practices and Strategies

Long-term absenteeism can cost businesses in Ireland a lot. So, it’s essential for employers to know how to handle and manage such absences. The Workplace Relations Act 2015 has highlighted the importance of proactive absenteeism management.

1. Set Clear Policies and Rules

Employers need to create easy-to-understand Absence and Sick Leave Policies. These should cover vital areas such as Notification Procedure, Certification Procedure, Statutory Sick Leave Payment, Additional Sick Pay Scheme (if offered), Referral to Occupational Doctor Procedures, and Return to Work Procedures. Employers should communicate these policies to all employees when they start work.

2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When an employee is away for a long time, employers should stay in touch. If an employee isn’t following the Absence and Sick Leave Policy, employers should remind them of it and provide a copy for reference. Regular communication can make it easier for employees to come back to work when they’re ready.

3. Watch Absences and Set Up Meetings

Employers should keep an eye on employee absences. If an employee hasn’t returned to work after four weeks, the employer should set up a meeting to talk about the continued absence. This meeting can happen through a call, online, or face-to-face. It lets the employer check in on the employee’s situation and ask about a possible return-to-work date. Employers should write down what was discussed.

4. Seek an Occupational Doctor’s Advice

If needed, employers should get an Occupational Doctor to check the employee’s ability to return to work. The Occupational Doctor can suggest any needed medical treatment or supervision and identify changes that should be made when the employee comes back. The employee might need to see the doctor again later on.

5. Go Over Occupational Doctor’s Suggestions

After getting the Occupational Doctor’s feedback, the employer should talk to the employee about the doctor’s recommendations. If the employee can come back to work, the employer should look at any risks and plan the next steps for their return. If the employee isn’t ready yet, the employer should plan another meeting and more check-ups with the Occupational Doctor if needed.

6. Hold Return-to-Work Meetings

When an employee can return to work, it’s a good idea to have a return-to-work meeting. This meeting lets the employer and employee talk about any changes or help that might be needed. Employers should give the employee written notes from the meeting.

7. Look into Special Help or Changes

If an employee can work but has limits, a risk assessment is needed. According to Section 16 (1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998, employers might need to provide special help or changes for an employee who can’t fully do their job. Employers should think about the cost of this help compared to the company’s size.

8. Use Wellbeing Strategies

Employers can also use wellbeing strategies to help prevent long-term absences. An Employee Assistance Programme, for example, can give valuable support to employees and cut down on long-term absences. Understanding the role of mental health and wellbeing at work is key to creating a safe and productive work environment for everyone.

In short, handling long-term absenteeism requires careful and personalised planning. Employers should have simple policies, keep in touch with absent employees, talk to medical experts when needed, and think about using wellbeing strategies. This approach can support employees and reduce the costs linked to long-term absences.

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