Empathy and Efficiency: How to Handle Long-Term Employee Sickness

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Written by: SafeWorkforce
4th April

How to manage an employee with a long-term sickness?

Sickness absence is a major burden on organisations. According to research by XpertHR, absence costs a median £798 per employee per year - although this figure can be significantly higher for long-term sickness absence.

What are the direct costs of an employee absence?

  • Sick pay
  • Paying for cover

What are the indirect costs of an employee absence?

  • Overtime
  • Additional work: managers, payroll, hr professionals
  • Loss of productivity
  • Customer service
  • Employee morale

Watch our webinar on managing long-term absences.

What is a long-term sickness?

Long-term sickness generally relates to periods of 4 weeks or more, although organisations can set their own timeframes. 

How much is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

The current rate of SSP is £99.35 per week, however, this is increasing to £109.40 per week with effect from 6th April.

Who qualifies for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

  • Must be an employee
  • Earn an average of at least £123 per week
  • Been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days)
  • Provided a self-certificate and/or Fit Note
  • Comply with your absence notification procedure

What are line managers and employers responsibilities with managing absences?

Recording Absences

When recording an absence make sure you add:

  • Date of absence
  • Type of absence
  • Length of absence

Keep in touch with the employee

Although there is information on the nature and length of absence in the fit note, it is still important to contact the absent employee during their time away. The line manager should aim to have a conversation with the absent employee at an early stage. Early intervention has been shown to help facilitate a full and speedy return to work.

Fit Notes

A fit note provides employees with the evidence required that they are not fit for work. However, it can also be used to give information on the employee's general fitness for work

What could a fit note raise?

  • A phased return to work
  • Altered hours
  • Amended duties
  • Workplace adjustments

Occupation Health

Where the line manager and employee can access an OH service, it is common practice for the line manager to discuss employees' cases with them. The organisation can also request an OH report - the purpose of this is to determine how the employee can make a safe and healthy return to work, including identifying any adaptations that might be needed or advisable.

Do you need Occupational Health Support?

As an Alcumus SafeWorkforce customer, you get discounted rates from our Occupational Health partners – Valentines Occupational Health.

For more information on employers responsibilities, watch our webinar.

How to manage a return to work following an absence?

At an early stage in their absence, the organisation should discuss with the absent employee that they do not have to be fully fit to return to work. The line manager should meet with the employee to discuss their return to work and to make a return-to-work plan. The plan may include such things as;

Workplace adjustments

Workplace adjustments may help facilitate an employee's return to work and prevent further periods of absence.


Relocation should be considered when an employee is able to perform their normal job, but the workplace presents them with challenges that cannot be overcome by making workplace adjustments.


Employers should explore the possibility of finding suitable alternative work within the organisation if the employee is no longer capable of performing their own job.

Watch our webinar on managing long-term absences.