11 March 2015

‘Creating awareness is essential!’

Employability – and default policy is a hot item within many companies now. Businesses don’t make enough specific choices regarding their default approach. That has to change.

I prefer talk about health improvement rather than talk about default approach. The disadvantage of the term default is that it only refers to a small part of your employees. Of course you should support someone who is ill, but at the same time the fact is that 95 percent of the employees do work according to agreements. That’s why I wonder why the emphasis is being put on the things that go ‘wrong’. After all, what an employer can do to make and keep his/her employers healthy is also really important. Naturally, the term “calling in sick” is not often used anymore. Calling in sick is after all a one-sided announcement from employee to employer. Employers can do absolutely nothing with these announcements. They only decide whether an employee gets continued payment of wages. ‘When you’re ill, you’re ill’, is a way of thinking nowadays. But it is often the case that someone who is ill can still work. Employees that suffer from a cold can for example still do their own job or an adjusted job. It might not be a smart thing to let them work at the lung department of a hospital, but I don’t see a problem with an administrative job or some tasks in a stockroom.


For a big part, health improvement is about creating awareness within the company. Employers should wonder what an ill employee will still be able to do. It’s about the positive approach. Questions that are most important hereby are: How can an employer make sure the employee returns to the labor as fast as possible? Employers should realize that their employees are allowed to ask questions when they call in sick. In that case, empathy is essential. Tell an ill employee that you feel for them. But afterwards, dare to ask whether their illness means they really can’t come to work. Don’t forget to ask the employee if you can help them with anything else. Those questions are the kind of questions you should dare to ask when you’re an employer. It is also very important that employees understand that their sick report on its own is not that big of a deal. After all, this is only an administrative act. It’s about employers trying to do something about default. It’s important that employers play this ‘game’ with their employees openly and honestly. Companies that embrace this method are often confronted with a default of less than 3%.


Health improvements also represent investments in the staff, and that is of essential meaning in the current and upcoming labor market. Companies have to sell themselves to potential employees. With a good health policy an enterprise is one step ahead. Besides, when an employee isn’t able to work for a week due to illness, it’ll cost the company a huge amount of money. Especially when they can’t find someone to replace the employee, the costs will run high. Employers should therefore put the emphasis on when an employee is healthy and can start working again. In addition, I’m convinced 80 percent of default has something to do with a lack of attention. Empathy – conversing about the reason behind the default and give someone that little extra attention to let them feel better – is in those cases really important.

When an employees’ child is ill, the employer can consider giving the employee permission for a calamity leave. The few extra hours might just be enough to arrange a babysitter of go to the doctor. If an employer doesn’t do this, the employee will call in sick anyway, and often for multiple days. Employers should, in those cases, act accommodating. A smart employer will give an employee a day off and will ask them whether they’ll be back the day after. This eminently is health policy. It’s about thinking along with your people.

‘Empathy is essential’

‘Health improvement is about thinking along with your people’

Leadership and Usability
Paul ter Wal makes healthy businesses better