Requests for GP sick notes have increased by 78%, according to new research, and over half of these requests were due to poor mental health, with stress, anxiety or depression the cause behind 52% of the requested notes. Here we look at sick note requests and handling employee absence.
The rise in demand has been linked to the easing of lockdown restrictions, following almost two years of uncertainty in both our professional and personal lives. Factors like longer working hours, a lack of work/life balance and managers being less able to identify and support staff experiencing mental health issues due to remote working could also be playing a role, according to Mind, the mental health charity.
Here are our three top tips to help guide you in handling staff absences and support your employees.
Introduce employee Wellness Action Plans
Regular wellbeing check-ins are important, and so developing a Wellness Action Plan for each of your employees will help you to understand the type of support they need, how they prefer to be contacted for check-ins and how often, and ways to signpost to professional support and resources if needed.
A Wellness Action Plan can also feed into your Employee Leave policy, which may help to handle a range of ‘leave’ circumstances, providing flexibility and keeping communication two-way.
It may be worth reviewing your policies when it comes to employees attending important appointments. If staff need to use annual leave to attend GP appointments, for example, they may neglect to attend them in order to save their holiday allowance or feel as though they have no choice but to call in sick.
By creating a flexible working policy, employees will be able to attend appointments during working hours – meaning you are in a position to plan around their brief absence, and important work or urgent deadlines are delegated ahead of time among the team.
Short term remote working
Welcoming the return of remote working temporarily will allow employees who are under the weather, but physically well enough to work, to complete tasks from home. Providing the option to work from home when an employee is feeling unwell could relieve some of the external pressure, feeding back into their tailored Wellness Action Plans, and offering an immediate resolution.
For more insight on handling employee absence read our Top Tips for Managing Absence