The silly season is officially upon us. In fact, when I read this story I checked the calendar (is it August or 1st April? The unrelenting rain yesterday didn’t give much of a clue).
We’re all familiar with employees who phone in sick with a variation of ‘the dog ate my homework’. Jerry Douthett’s employer must have thought he’d entered a parallel (and completely surreal) universe when he got this sickness notification from Mr Douthett. Mr Douthett had an infected toe for several weeks, but had refused to see a doctor.
He said he had been working up the courage but then had a few drinks too many and fell asleep. He woke up to find his dog, Kiko, a Jack Russell terrier, beside him and a pool of blood near his foot. "The toe was gone," said Mr Douthett. "He ate it. I mean, he must have eaten it, because we couldn't find it anywhere else in the house.
I look down, there's blood all over, and my toe is gone." At the hospital, doctors discovered that the infection had reached the bone and were forced to amputate what was left of the toe. Kiko is still with the family but under observation by authorities. I have no idea if this story is true … it’s so bizarre that it’s possible.
So back to reality. Even if an employee calls in sick with a completely outrageous story, resist the temptation to laugh or make a sarcastic comment. Use sickness absence notification telephone conversations positively. When a sick employee phones in, take down as much information as you can.
Prepare a template to ensure that you collect all the relevant data. Always be firm, polite and sensitive. Make arrangements to make contact later in the day (or the following day) for a progress report so that you can plan for the following day. In doing so ask the following:
- What is wrong with the employee?
- What are the symptoms?
- When did he first experience the symptoms?
- What’s the employee doing about seeking medical advice? (Get as much detail as you can).
Make a note of the date and time of the telephone call to ensure that your reporting procedures have been followed. You can review this information at a return to work meeting. If you have any queries call us.
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