COVID Leave Policies: Managing Employee Absences and Returning to Work

 Mar 04, 2024 | 3 Min Read

Table of Contents

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, employers are facing the challenges of managing employee absences and facilitating a safe return to work for team members with their COVID leave policies. In this blog post, we'll explore strategies and best practices for employers to support employees with long COVID, navigate employee absences, and facilitate a smooth return-to-work process.

Long COVID can result in a huge range of symptoms for patients, which can affect their quality of life, daily routine, and work responsibilities. 


Long COVID poses unique challenges for employers, as affected employees may require extended time off, accommodations, and support to manage their symptoms and safely reintegrate into the workplace. From diagnosis through to returning to work, employers have a responsibility to ensure that the process of dealing with long COVID is as seamless as possible for employees. 

  • Clear communication: Transparent communication is key when it comes to managing sick leave and absences. Establish clear communication channels to inform employees about company policies and procedures related to long COVID, so they can be aware of the resources before even taking time off. This information can include eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, and available support resources. Once an employee is off, be sure to respect their privacy and work-life balance, but also ensure that there is a line of communication open for when issues arise. 
  • Flexible work arrangements: Flexible work arrangements, such as options for remote work, modified schedules, or temporary reassignments to less physically demanding tasks, can all act as alternatives to extended leave. Discuss these options with your employees to see what best works for them.
  • Cultivating a supportive culture: Foster a supportive workplace culture that prioritises employee health and wellbeing. Encourage open communication, empathy, and flexibility among managers and colleagues when addressing COVID-related absences and return-to-work concerns.
  • Access to healthcare resources: Provide employees with access to comprehensive healthcare resources, including telemedicine services, mental health support, and specialists familiar with managing long COVID symptoms.
  • Tailored return-to-work plans: Every employee is different, and one roadmap may not work for everyone affected by long COVID. Collaborate with affected employees to develop individualised return-to-work plans tailored to their specific circumstances, such as symptom severity, medical advice, and workplace accommodations.
  • Gradual transition: Plan for a gradual transition back to the workplace, allowing employees sufficient time to readjust after an extended absence. Work with line managers and HR team members to map out a plan that is effective and practical.
  • Health and safety protocols: Just because the pandemic’s emergency phase is over, doesn’t mean that health and safety measures should be forgotten. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace is still of paramount concern, especially for employees with lowered immunity. This may include measures such as mandatory mask-wearing, physical distancing, regular disinfection of shared spaces, and vaccination incentives, depending on what your staff are comfortable with.
Navigating employee absences and return-to-work processes amidst long COVID requires empathy, flexibility, and proactive planning from employers. One of the best ways an employer can support their international employees is with a robust healthcare plan. Check out our international plans for employers and our range of global health services to get started.