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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
Hot on the heels of January’s depressing Blue Monday comes today’s ‘National Sickie Day’, apparently. Statistically the first Monday in February heralds the highest number of sick days of the year in Britain – whether this be due to genuine winter illness or, say the sceptics, over-indulgence over the first weekend of drinking following Dry January!
An estimated 350,000 employees phoned in sick on National Sickie Day 2018. If today sees similar numbers, this is expected to cost the British economy £45 million in lost wages, hours and overtime. Sick days cause problems for employers owing to of the difficulties finding cover for someone at short notice, and can even mean that smaller business are forced to close for the day.
Have you had flocks of employees phoning in to report bouts of ‘flu’, this morning? There are key steps you can take to manage and monitor the levels of sickness absence in your business.
In the first place, employers should ensure they have a well-drafted and up-to-date sickness absence policy in place; setting out exactly what is expected of employees when they are sick, their reporting obligations and how they will be paid after any extended absence. Requiring staff to phone in to report their illness (rather than allowing an email or text) can discourage individuals from pulling sickies. Having a formal reporting and record-keeping system in place, whereby staff might have to attend a ‘return to work’ interview upon return to work, could be another big factor in discouraging false absenteeism and detecting any underlying issues which need investigating.
By conducting a ‘return to work’ interview with an employee following their sudden illness, an employer will be welcoming them back to work, confirming the reason for the absence, offering support and discovering whether there’s anything work-related which might have contributed to their absence. As much as protecting business interests, such attention will also go towards the employer’s duty of care to its staff. It should be borne in mind, though, that absences related to pregnancy or disability must be treated differently.
An employer should also be cautious if they choose to monitor an employee’s social media accounts in any cases where they suspect someone has pulled a sickie. Whilst smug social media posts have sometimes caught out and brought to justice employees pulling sickies, employers must be careful about monitoring their social media pages for privacy and data protection reasons.
Using the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ approach, employers could offer incentives to reward good attendance; such as annual attendance perks/ treats, offering ‘duvet days’, or an extra day’s annual leave. Such measures can be an effective way of encouraging employees to think twice about pulling sickies, and encouraging their loyalty to their employer.
However you approach the issue, contact us if you need any support with absence management, drafting a watertight absence policy, or with any specific issues with individual employees.