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Supporting mental fitness at work pt.3 – keeping conversations going

Published On: August 7th, 2023By

Keeping in touch with an employee who is absent due to mental ill-health is often helpful but care needs to be taken to ensure communications are understanding, recommended and structured appropriately.

Inappropriate communications may result in harm to the individual and claims for fundamental breach of contract, harassment or even personal injury. Here are our thoughts on what appropriate communication looks like.

Identifying the trigger – understanding why an employee is absent is hugely important. If it’s work-related, there may be something that you can do to address concerns and support a return to work. If absence is linked to a longstanding health condition, it may amount to a disability meaning contact should be adjusted according to expert medical opinion so as not to exacerbate the condition.

Listen to medical opinion – if the employee is telling you that they’re not well enough to enter into conversation with you, an expert medical opinion will help you to understand what contact would be appropriate to ensure that you don’t make their condition worse or slow down their recovery.

Create a well-being communication plan – set out in advance the communications they can expect from you, the different communication options available, and who you will contact if they’re not well enough to discuss their mental health with you. To find out how to access our template well-being communication plan, click here.

Offer alternatives – be flexible with how you keep in touch. Offer to conduct conversations via telephone, video call or even written correspondence. Consider extending the right to a companion, friend or family member – providing they’re not a lawyer!

Give your managers the tools – running training workshops allows managers to practice what to say and how to say it in a safe environment. Providing your managers with guidance notes will help them frame their communications, and how and where they should be keeping a record. To find out how to access our template manager guidance notes or for details of our manager training sessions, click here.

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how our toolkit and training can help you to support mental fitness at work. 

This update is accurate on the date it was published, but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.