Dealing with long-term sickness

News on 21 October 2018

When does sickness become long-term sickness? Most businesses define long term sickness as 4 weeks or more.

If you’ve got any employees who have been off sick, or are due to be off sick, for 4 weeks or more then you should really be looking at what to do next.

Follow our easy steps to handling long-term sickness...

Step 1 - Communicate with the employee

Communication is key. Just because someone is off sick, doesn’t mean you can’t speak to them. Make sure you keep in contact with them to see how they are and if there are any updates on their treatment or a potential return to work date. 

Step 2 - Arrange a welfare meeting

You can arrange a welfare meeting in your premises, in a quiet room, or if they aren’t well enough to come into work, you can visit them at their house or a neutral location. The point of a welfare meeting is just to see how they are and if you can do anything at this stage to help them back into work.  

Step 3 - Follow up on your promises to the employee

Follow up on what you said you’d do. If you agreed that you would make some changes to help your employee back to work, make sure you’ve done it. If you can’t make any changes and there is no indication of a likely return to work date, you need to look at the next steps

Step 4 - Instruct Occupational Health to have an assessment carried out

You need to be specific in what you want the Occupational Health advisor to find out. So, if you want to know when they employee can return to work, put that as one of your questions.

Step 5 - Following the assessment from Occupational Health

Once the report comes back from Occupational Health, this will give you an idea of what to do next. It could be that they are recommending specific adjustments. Or it could be that they are saying there is no likely return to work date and you will need to look at ending the employment.

Losing contact with someone on long-term sickness

It’s easy to forget about someone when you don’t see them everyday, so make sure you put a reminder in to call them on a regular basis. They will know you care then 

Do I need to pay notice pay?

Some people think that if you’re dismissing an employee on the ground of ill-health you don’t have to pay them their full notice pay. This is wrong – you do have to pay them their full notice pay, even if they’ve exhausted their rights to statutory or contractual sick pay.


Weigh up your options. You don’t always have to dismiss an employee on long-term sick. They might be able to come back to work in a different role. If you'd like more advice - contact us on 02920 090500.