How should we react when the absent employee seems to having a great time?

How should we react when the absent employee seems to having a great time?

October 11, 2020

This week we’ve took several calls from employers, frustrated that they have staff who are signed off with anxiety and depression yet social media shows them looking well and having a great time.

Both employers wanted to know what steps they could take to address their concerns at seeing this with their employees.

In both cases we said that employers wouldn’t be able to do very much and here’s why.

Reality vs the Truth

What employee’s post on social media doesn’t necessarily represent how they are really feeling. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and its well accepted that people who use social media may post images that may bear no resemblance as to how they really are. They may be pretending to be OK so that people don’t ask them if they are OK. They may be comparing themselves to others and feel that only positives are welcome. Its a image we want the world to see. It may be the polar opposite to reality.

Statements of Fitness for Work

In addition if someone has a Statement of Fitness for Work that says they are unfit for work, then thats what they are, unfit to work. That doesnt mean they can’t go out (COVID restrictions permitting!) and they can’t enjoy themselves in their own homes and gardens. Remember that just because they have a note to say they are unfit for your work, doesnt mean they can’t do their second job or go on holiday. In fact over the years we have had several occasions where doctors have encouraged patients to take their holiday as it will be supportive of their recovery.

Communication is key

What can do is speak to our teams. Remind them that social media isn’t the truth and that what they see on social media can’t impact how they treat their colleagues.

We should also be having conversations with those who are signed off sick. Once someone has been off 4 weeks we consider this long term absence and we recommend employers have absence review or welfare meetings with their team members to see what can be done to support them returning to work. We can seek permission to write to an employees GP and in that we can ask whether they believe that this employee is to be considered disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

When someone returns to work following a period of absence we can talk to them about the impact on their colleagues of seeing them having such a good time and remind everyone that social media can be harmful to our mental wellbeing and to use it responsibly.

Remember we should all be kind. Whoever we are in whatever we are doing.


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