The first Monday in February has been coined National Sickie Day, because it is the day of the year when the highest proportion of people call in sick. Whether this is down to genuine sickness – it is still cold and flu (and now COVID-19!) season after all, and it has been a very long January – or something more fictional, is unclear.
Either way, odds are that higher than usual staff absence on one day a year is not going to cause a huge problem for your business. But short-term intermittent sickness absences do cause issues, and are often difficult to tackle. Below are our top tips for dealing with this (whether it be following National Sickie Day or otherwise):
- Have clear policies and procedures. What policies do you already have in place that addresses sickness absence? Are they clear and consistent? Are both employees and managers aware of the steps that they should be taking when it comes to reporting, or managing, sickness absence?
- Monitor and record absences. This will help provide a clear and transparent account of sickness rates, patterns, and so on. The valuable insights you gain may also help you to identify employees who are suffering from poor health (and need support), as well as those who may be playing the system.
- Do return to work interviews. Interviews can give employees a dedicated safe space to talk about underlying health problems and give managers to the chance to identify any areas of concern at an early stage.
- Be fair. By all means, do investigate matters if there are genuine concerns about the timing and number of sick days. But do not allow one suspiciously timed-day off to allow you to act too rashly in taking any disciplinary action.
- Be consistent. A consistent approach is key to ensuring that employees are treated fairly. But you must not forget to…
- …Make adjustments, if necessary and reasonable. Whilst consistency is very important, equality legislation requires businesses to tweak their processes and procedures for those with disabilities. For example, you may need to adjust the sickness absence procedure to account for higher-than-average intermittent absence. Or you may need to change how an employee reports their absence.
- Think about the employee’s circumstances. Is your employee a carer or do they have children with additional needs? Might this impact their own health? If so, you may have to make accommodations to ensure that you are not discriminating against an employee for reasons related to a disabled person they are associated with.
- Consider offering flexible working options (if you do not already). Many employers with flexible working options report that they are less likely to have high levels of sickness absence. Perhaps this is because employees are less likely to take sick days when they are well enough to work but not to commute into the office. That said, employers should always encourage employees who are unwell to focus on their health and take time off, rather than push through.
- Promote health and wellbeing. There is unsurprisingly a link between good employee well-being and work attendance. Employers can support the health and wellbeing of employees in a number of ways. Some examples include arranging flu jabs during working hours, signposting mental health resources, and subsidising health and fitness programmes.
- Encourage a good work/life balance. This could be as simple as ensuring that employees take their annual leave entitlement, switch off outside of working hours, and take rest breaks during the day. You may have some employees suffering from burn out – what steps can be taken to spot those at risk and support them?