We have had a busy month providing advice regarding situations where an employee is unable to work for a prolonged period of time.
In HR, we refer to this as medical incapacity.
These processes can be tricky to navigate, and it’s important it is dealt with it in an empathetic and sensitive way.
So what is the ‘right’ way?
Communication is KEY throughout the entire process. The first priority is to gather information on the situation, so you know where the employee is at. The diagnosis (what is wrong), and the prognosis (what does the future look like) are integral to the process.
Due to Privacy laws, you are unable to obtain any information without the employee’s consent, so their participation in the process is critical. Your employee is your vehicle to get information about their injury and recovery from their ACC Case Manager, physio, specialist, or Occupational Therapist.
Once your employee has gathered as much information as possible (a week is a reasonable time), invite them to bring that information along to a formal meeting, where you can discuss their diagnosis and prognosis through a constructive and informative conversation.
Based on the information available, you will determine whether you can keep the employee’s job open or not.
Throughout the process, the objective is to get the employee back to work in the role they are employed to do within a reasonable timeframe.
However, that’s not always possible.
There are many factors to consider, including the role the person has, and the ease with which you could employ temporary cover during their absence. It can get pretty complex, so if you find yourself venturing into this space, it pays to seek advice early in the process.