Psychological Health at Work

by Dr Christopher C Ridgeway

Long-term psychological health problems

Some employees, though probably only a small number, will remain absent on sick leave for the medium to long term; in other words, they will be away for several months to a year or more. In such cases, you, as their manager, should take the steps outlined below.

  1. Ask the professional advisors about their prognosis for the returnee. Assess the likelihood of relapse and find out what might trigger it.
  2. Ask the team members who will be working with the returnee what they feel about them. Try to enlist their cooperation and deal sensitively with any problems they might have: it could be the case that staff have found the person abusive or unhelpful and are anxious about being harassed or over-burdened. Reassure them that you will be monitoring the situation.
  3. Assume the returnee will continue with psycho-pharmacological medication and ensure that you understand the possible adverse effects of drugs such as Propranolol, which is sometimes prescribed for extreme anxiety and which can commonly result in fatigue or, on rare occasions, in fainting and nausea.
  4. Check with health and safety that the normal effects of any medication and/or the possible adverse effects will not make the returnee a danger to themselves and/or others.
  5. Ensure that any ongoing requirements of the returnee to attend hospital, doctor appointments, consultations with counsellors/therapists and so on are allowed for, and that appointments can be fitted into work needs.
  6. For a least a year, continue to monitor the returnee’s record for lateness and absence and their overall performance.

Also see Attendance Management, Long-term sickness absence.