What Can an Employer Do When Illness Interferes with Work?
Part I In part one, we will discuss this topic from the perspective of an employer who is supporting an employee with a chronic illness or similar work disruption, such as a family crisis. Since life is unpredictable, sometimes an employee—even a top notch one—can encounter an illness or personal situation that disrupts his/her work. Whether a personal crisis, a chronic illness, or a mental illness, there are ways to handle the setback and be supportive of the employee, too. As a manager, you need to know how to recognize the situation, how to be frank but encouraging to the employee, and when to draw the line. First, look for signs of sudden change or trouble and find the root:
- Are details slipping through the cracks?
- Has an attitude or other behavior changed dramatically?
- Are there sudden and excessive absences?
- Make sure that you (the employer) are not part of the problem.
- Show your heart is in the right place but don’t become a therapist. Keeping your distance will help maintain clarification of your role. Oversharing will blur this line.
- Be compassionate but fair.
- Remind the employee of company policies as well as resources available such as Family Medical Leave Act, anonymous counseling appointments, and more.
- Determine a schedule for planned days off or early dismissal, and establish a timeline for how long, as possible.
- Be mindful of the impact on other employees’ morale due to the situation.
- Check in frequently for status updates.