Avoiding Harassment While on Sick Leave in the UK

Every employer should want to avoid harassing their employees when they’re on sick leave. But what constitutes harassment on sick leave and how can you keep in touch with your employees without it becoming harassment? 

All of those questions and many more will be answered in this article. That in mind, let’s jump into how employers should seek to contact their employees on sick leave.

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Employers Contacting Employees On Sick Leave

Employers can consider contacting employees when they’re on sick leave. The question is how much contact and in what ways are permissible. 

There are no laws that expressly forbid employers from contacting their employees on sick leave. To avoid it becoming harassment, though, employers should seek to establish a few things with employees on sick leave: 

  • How often should the employer contact the employee? Employers should contact their employees to provide support. How much depends on the type of leave

  • What type of medium will be used for contact? Employers need to consider whether to make contact via phone, email or face-to-face.

  • Who will be the contact person? There needs to be an established point of contact for the employee on leave. Most often, this will be their line manager.

Employees Contacting Employers When On Sick Leave

Yes, employees can contact employers during their sick leave. Again, the amount of contact will depend on multiple things, such as the type and the urgency of information that the employee needs to transfer. 

It’s difficult for a person to jump on a quick call if they have the flu. Or, if they’re a senior employee who has a lot of know-how in the company, they will probably seek to contact their employer more often. 

Three Good Times To Contact Employees on Sick Leave

There are three good times to contact your employee when they’re on sick leave:

1. Welfare Checks

A good time to contact your employee on sick leave would be when they need to receive a welfare check. You can contact your employee to get all of their details and ensure that they receive the check on time.

2. Risk Assessment

When the company is doing risk assessment in the office, it’s a good idea to contact your employees that are on sick leave to inform them about it. The employees should be aware of any changes to the workplace that can impact them, like risks to pregnant women

3. Support Your Staff

When your employees are on sick leave, you should support them. How much support will depend on the type of sick leave. If they were in an accident and broke their leg, you can provide them with more support and have contact more often. 

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Five Times That Contacting Employees While On Sick Leave May Be Considered Harassment 

There are a couple of things that employers should be wary of when contacting their employees on sick leave. 

Worsening Their Condition

If an employee took sick leave because of their mental health or wellbeing, it’s probably a good idea not to contact them too often. It may have the unintended consequence of enhancing the problem and causing unneeded stress.

Pressuring For An Early Return

If an employer may be seen as pressuring the employee for an early return, this would be considered harassment. Give your employees enough time and don’t pressure them for an early return. 

Following An Always-On Culture

In general, contacting employees after working hours isn’t something to be taken lightly. And if the employee is on sick leave, they have an “off time” where they take care of themselves. Respect the boundaries of this time off.

Not Asking First

When talking with your employees who are on sick leave, it’s always a good idea to ask them how they’re doing. They will tell you themselves when they’re ready to return to the workplace. 

Not Giving Adequate Time To Rest

An employee takes a sick leave because they need that time to get better. Don’t pressure them during that time. They will get better during that time and return to work when they’re fully operational. So give them enough time to rest and they will come back 100% ready. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Harassment While On Sick Leave

Here are the three most asked questions about harassment while on sick leave:

Can You Contact Employees While They Are On Sick Leave?

Yes, you can contact employees while they’re on sick leave. But, you need to be mindful of the employee’s needs, how much they truly want you to contact them and how easily contact can sometimes slip into the realm of harassment. 

When Can An Employer Contact An Employee That Is On Sick Leave?

The employee and the employer will establish how often they will have contact during the sick leave. This needs to be mutually agreed upon for harassment to be avoided. 

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