Just as you are about to leave for work it comes, the phone call comes in “I’m sorry, I’m not well. I won’t be in today”. Oh. Not again. Who is going to cover? Do I have enough time to complete the work? Panic strikes! 

So, what can you do? How can you reduce sickness?

Managing sickness has never been an easy thing, but with COVID-19 it has speared into the forefront of issues, with more colleagues suffering with long COVID it has just added to the pot of long-term health conditions. 

“Between June and August 2022, around 2.5 million people reported long-term sickness” ONS, 2022

We all know that the right thing to do is to support colleagues who are unwell. Not only because of the practicalities of running a team or business, but because we care. 

What is the best thing to do and how to balance the wellbeing of a colleague and the running of a business. 

The CIPD found that “half of HR professionals (50%) think that line managers lack the knowledge and confidence to manage people with long-term health conditions”. CIPD, 2022

To support managers here are some practical ways to support colleagues.

Encouraging Self Care

This starts at work. Make sure your colleagues are taking their breaks, getting some fresh air and staying hydrated! 


This is this sometimes difficult, especially when you have a hefty work load. It is very important. Most people just need a caring word, a sympathetic ear and someone to listen. It creates a caring environment and builds relationships – this then encourages the colleague to feel safe coming back to work after sickness. 

Being Open, Fair and Consistent

A lot of this is to do with knowing your policy and handbooks. Following policy and handbooks is the fairest way to be consistent. Use them – they have the guidelines and rules. It is important for managers to be knowledgeable and understand the policy. This ensures they are giving colleagues the right information. 

Managing Conflict

Managing small conflict before it becomes a big thing makes a world of difference. Line managers can be versed in informal mediation to nip quarrels in the bud! 

If conflict is managed correctly it can have a huge effect of reducing sickness and makes the working environment feel safe. 

So, line managers are doing their bit. What can the wider business do?

Reasonable Adjustments 

This really doesn’t have to be a big, scary or a costly initiative. Sometimes small changes make a big difference – I am sure that was a tag line for a diet company – but it is true! 

This could be flexible hours, a priority parking spaces, extra breaks. These small changes can be easily implemented without contract changes, loss of money or a flexible working agreements.

If you are finding there is a lot of sickness – is it time to look at your policies and asses if you are being flexible enough – is there anything else you can offer?

Of course, if these measures are followed then this also reduces the risk of any discrimination issues. So – a win, a win! 

We conclude. Managing sickness may not be straightforward or easy, but there are measures we can take to reduce sickness and create a better working environment. Supporting line managers is the first step. 

For more details on how we can support you to reduce sickness absence within your business, resolve an on-going sickness absence issue, or for information on the manager training we provide on this topic, please get in touch!


CIPD. January 2022. Managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions. Available at: Managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions | CIPD

ONS. November 2022. Half a million more people are out of the labour force because of long-term sickness. Available at: Half a million more people are out of the labour force because of long-term sickness – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)