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Are you being fair? Researchers say workers returning from sick leave need to feel supported

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Norwich, England — Managers need to “foster a supportive culture between colleagues” to help workers returning from sick leave feel they’re being treated fairly, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia and Stockholm University.

Using a biennial Swedish population survey, the researchers analyzed data from more than 3,200 employee respondents. They found a link between perceived colleague support and feelings of fairness. For instance, if a worker is experiencing residual effects of illness, co-workers may react by remaining distant. Further, colleagues may be inclined to show less concern after performing extra duties during the worker’s absence. These actions can result in the returning worker feeling less included and less valued, Constanze Eib, lead author and lecturer in organizational behavior at UEA’s Norwich Business School, said in a March 6 press release.

“If, on the other hand, you feel supported by colleagues, this will change how you behave at work, and what you think about your organization,” Eib said in the release.

The researchers recommend that employers account for the entire occupational environment when workers return from sickness-related absences, taking steps to ensure procedures and decision-making processes are “unbiased, robust and transparent.”

The study was published online March 5 in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

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