Employee sickness absence can have a significant impact on businesses – affecting performance, productivity, workload and morale. Managing sickness absence also requires a high degree of sensitivity and flexibility, making it one of the trickiest issues for employers to handle.

Determining the best course of action for ill-health will depend on whether the absence is long-term or short-term, as well as the nature of the illness and the role of the individual concerned. Employers should be understanding of illness, whether mental or physical, but still be aware of the effects it may have on the business. Keeping accurate absence records are a good way of assisting an employer in identifying issues early on. It is also helpful to maintain clear absence policies before and throughout employment, to ensure that employees are aware of expected standards of attendance and that managers can deal with absences effectively.

An effective way of ensuring all employees are understanding of business rules, and performance or lack of is understood, is through conducting performance reviews. Some organisations promote performance management strategies that focus on intervening only if and when an employee isn’t performing at their best, or even termly to promote open communication.

When conducting these performance reviews it is incredibly important to address and aim to resolve the issues that are causing the employee to not work in the manner that they are expected to. However, focusing on just negative aspects can also reduce motivation from both employees and in turn the employer, so there must be a line between performance management and supporting ill health.

One reason employees may not be performing as well as they once were, or you have noticed a dip in productivity may be due to changes in their mental or physical health. It is important that these subjects can be addressed openly in a performance review. This way the employer can support their needs and create a supportive strategy to help them perform as they once did.

Being able to support performance and manage poor health, whether physical or mental, are qualities that indicate a strong leader. Every employer wants a team that always works productively and doesn’t have any struggles, but that is not realistic. To ensure employee productivity is at the forefront it is vital to provide adequate support and a comfortable working environment for yourself and your employees – conducting performance reviews is a good way to do this.

When addressing an employee’s behaviour, ensure that there is no judgement in your conversation and their best intentions are at the heart of your communication. When dealing with mental health issues especially, performance management should be clear and supportive and the focus should be on the outcome rather than the issue at hand. This can help to ensure that the discussion feels like a collaboration instead of a critique of an employee’s work performance.

When conducting a performance review ensure that an employee’s strengths are highlighted throughout the discussion and include the benefits that they bring to the organisation. Issues should be related to performance rather than an individual’s personality so it is beneficial that this is taken into consideration before discussing poor performance with an employee. This relates to inclusion in the workplace, you don’t want employees to feel as if they are potentially being discriminated against in a performance review, so keeping it fair and constructive is essential.

If mental health is the cause of ill health then it is important to build upon existing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. Employees should be encouraged to develop solutions to their issues which can overall help improve their wellbeing and work performance.

The Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards are hosting sessions on March 2nd 2022 where topics such as performance management and ill health will be addressed and discussed in depth.

15:20-16:00 – Where is the line between performance management & Supporting ill-health?

Speakers include;

Jenna Hope (ANutr), MSc, BSc (Hons) | Jenna Hope Nutrition

Sarah Wilson | Director of HR, Hull University

Natasha Giles | Regional People and Culture Director – UK & Europe, Les Mills UK

Wellbeing Session sick leave