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Tina Doyle

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Instructional Designer/IT Trainer

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Sickness contact


When, if any, should managers keep in contact with individuals who are off sick?  I know of a manager who phones staff every day when they are off sick, just to find out "how they are" and "when do they think they will be coming back to work?"  Would that behaviour be considered harrassment?

7 Responses

  1. Sickness contact


    I have no expertise in this area, but for what it’s worth I think it would best to decide on a case by case basis.  If someone has had an operation or nasty accident and is likely to be off for weeks or even months, then a daily call could certainly be interpreted as harrassing.  A call every couple of weeks would surely be more appropriate, to enquire how things are going and to keep the member of staff in touch with any changes going on etc.

    If the manager has concerns about a member of staff’s absences, for instance if they are for vague illnesses, I would think a call every other day would be appropriate.  However, if the member of staff has a doctor’s certificate for, say, two weeks, I feel it would be inappropriate to ring frequently. Maybe a call towards the end of the two week period to see how things are and if they are intending to return to work at the end of the current certificate would be about right.

    As I say, just my gut feeling really. I’m sure you will get lots of experts with their views, too.

    Have a good weekend one and all.



  2. it all depends….

    …if a manager had a general relationship with a staff member that normally included some concern over the latter’s welfare then a daily call might seem perfectly normal.  If the manager would barely recognise the staff member in normal work then a daily call might seem to be harrassment.

    …if the call went "Hello Dave, when are you coming back to work, then?" it might be deemed harrassment, if there was a degree of natural conversation first, enquiries about the person’s health and morale and some news from the workplace, then it would probably be perfectly acceptable.

    …if the person was off sick with migraine or severe conjunctivitis and therefore actually unable to work it may be deemed harrassment, if the person was a desk bound person and off sick due to ingrowing toenails and therefore predominantly absent due to their inability to travel to work it might be considered normal. (personally I can’t see why the individual in a case like this didn’t work from home anyway for the duration)

    Personally I would prefer, as a sick staff member, to be kept updated and in the loop by my boss, particularly if I were going to be off sick for more than a couple of days. (but then as a self employed person* I haven’t had a day off sick in 9 years so maybe I’m not qualified to have an opinion)

    If someone is off sick with "work related stress" then that is a whole different ballpark… depends on the cause of the stress.


    I doubt that helps much but in a management/leadership way, rather than a legal definition way, it is my three ha’penceworth



    *A new interim HR manager in a Local Authority that had a horrendous sickness absense record put up a sign that said "The best cure for sickness is self employment", and proposed to convert all staff onto daily rate contracts IF sickness absense didn’t improve….it did…..within about three months!

  3. Contact with sick employees

    It is ‘good practice’ to have regular contact with staff who are off sick.  The line manager should maintain a regular contact during the initial 4-weeks of the absence and the frequency of this would be dependent on the individual circumstances relating to the nature of the absence.  Ideally, there should be a minimum weekly contact for the duration of the absence but, as this can be sensitive, the following aspects should be considered/agreed to maintain a positive approach to the contact made:

    Pre-arrange a mutually convenient time to next telephone the person at the end of each contact.  It may be appropriate to visit the person rather than asking that they come to you.  Ask questions that are relevant to the factual aspects of the absence.  Reassure the person on the confidentiality of the information being discussed and the boundaries around who, if anyone, you may need to share information with, i.e. your manager, occupational health, HR Section etc.

    Bear in mind the tone of your voice and how this might impact on the conversation.  Do not minimise or trivialise the person’s concerns – remember that their experience is unique to them.

    Maintain consistency in your approach to contact with employees who are absent so that you do not leave yourself open to accusations of favouritism or harrassment.

    It is reasonable to ask employees to advise you if they intend to be away from home for a period, (of say more than 3 days), to ensure the exchange of any necessary information during the absence takes place timeously.

    Contact should have the purpose of promoting an effective return to work and carried out in a manner which is supportive of this.

    You may wish to formally meet with the person at the point when the absence extends to a period of 4-weeks and then build in regular and appropriate review meetings seeking to facilitate a return to work for the person.

  4. Sickness Management

    — Yes you can – Yes you must  is the overarching answer -legally and morally.It’s their welfare,the welfare of those left behind at work and the welfare of the whole organisation. Employment law is not designed to paralyse the organisation – the key words are reasonable, practical and proportionate

    As one of your correspondents says,each case must be decided on its ,erit – eg light touch contact/more sustained contact and equality issues – but due process can and should be followed


    Have a look at the fantastic website link below which embellishes and details all the foregoing

    Best Wishes




    QED Training

  5. Contact with Sick Employees

    I think it is the duty of the employee’s immediate Manager or Supervisor to maintain regular contact.  This ensures the employee feels cared for, and hopefully returns to work in due course.

    If the sick leave continues for an extended period, the EAP or EWP Specialist should also call to assess the situation, and intervene if necessary. 

  6. Would that behaviour be considered harrassment?

    It is the requirement of the employer to give employees details of any contractual terms or provisions about incapacity for work due to illness or personal injury. These must be given in writing within two months of starting a new job.

    It is unlikely that these state that the employer will call daily, more that the employee is required to call in on their first day of absence. If it is agreed in that first call that the manager will then call daily then it may not be deemed as harrassment. However, the illness, length of service, work area, etc will impact on whether it is reasonable.

    If not harrassment, it’s more than a little risky and unsafe.

  7. Sickness management

    Thanks to everyone who has replied to this question and I appreciate the depth of the answers.  This has certainly given me food for thought!


    Regards to all


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Tina Doyle

Instructional Designer/IT Trainer

Read more from Tina Doyle

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