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Vision on absenteeism: I can't come to work, what happens now?

If you're absent, work doesn't stop. Miriam van Mulken (Head of Personnel & Organisation) and Menno Tuurenhout (Executive Dean) bring you up to date on the renewed Vision on absenteeism.

Shared responsibility

You and your manager will look together at ways to ensure that as far as possible your work still gets done while you’re absent. Menno explains: ‘You’re under no obligation to keep working, but it’s reasonable to expect you to arrange or transfer everything as effectively as possible during your absence. It can be helpful, for instance, if you send a few emails or make some phone calls from home. But obviously this doesn’t apply in situations where that's really not possible.’

Miriam adds, ‘Fortunately, most people share this sense of responsibility. It’s normal to want everything to keep running smoothly if you’re absent. And when you come back to work, it’s good that you’re not faced with a chaotic situation. But of course it’s also important to focus on rest, to help your recovery.’

Be sensible and listen to the university doctor

You should take responsibility for your own absence process and speak with your manager. You’re not required to tell your manager about your symptoms, but rather what you are still able to do and what you need for this. The P&O adviser and university doctor are important advisers in this regard. Menno: ‘Don’t just adopt a wait-and-see attitude. You can go to the university doctor for an advisory consultation on your own initiative, and you can also ask your manager to accompany you.’

What if you want to keep working while you’re experiencing symptoms? The university doctor can explore the possibilities with you. ‘But please be careful. Sometimes you can be so involved in your work that you think you’re fit enough to start again. The long-term effects can then actually be that you’re out of action for longer,’ explains Miriam. ‘So be sensible and listen to the university doctor’s advice,’ suggests Menno. ‘And your manager should do the same.’

What to do in a conflict situation?

Some cases of sickness absence are based purely on medical reasons, but the matter is more complicated if there’s a situation of conflict. ‘Absence can also be caused by something completely different,’ says Menno. ‘For example, you might have been in the same office for thirty years and then you suddenly have to move, which makes you very distressed. This is a natural reaction, but being absent isn’t a safety net for discontentment.’ Miriam: ‘In cases like this, it’s better to talk about the situation; a confidential counsellor can act as mediator or arrange a meeting. There are confidential counsellors for all kinds of issues, and they’re listed on the staff website.’

Absence prevention

You should dare to speak up if you don’t feel entirely comfortable about something, and then continue to talk about it. People in managerial positions should also do this if they have any concerns. Is the person actually incapable of working or is something else going on? ‘You need to talk about what the problem really is, because staying at home doesn’t solve anything,’ says Miriam. ‘And try to look after each other a little,’ adds Menno. ‘When people feel safe, they dare to say more. If you notice that someone is quiet or looks worried or sad, speak to them and ask how they are. This is an important role not only for managers but also for colleagues. It provides an opening to really talk about what’s happening.’

The core message

In short: managers and staff members are both responsible for a good working relationship. You should start and keep talking with each other and be attentive to each other, also in case of absence. Discuss together how your work in your absence can continue as best as possible and talk about what you can possibly still do.

Leiden University tries to keep the level of absence to a minimum and has drawn up a policy to precent employees from being absent. In terms of prevention, it is very important that employees should have a feeling of safety, health and vitality. The University document Vision on absenteeism (Visie op verzuim in Dutch) explains the precise roles of employees and managers, and also the university doctor and P&O adviser, in the event of absence.

If you have any questions after reading this article, please contact your manager or P&O adviser.

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