Too many Easter eggs? Managing sickness absence in the workplace

The Easter weekend is the first of the spring bank holidays, offering a welcome opportunity for rest and recreation. However, some employers may encounter issues with staff prolonging their time off by calling in sick. This may be due to genuine illness, or otherwise.

We have set out some useful points as to how employers’ can best manage sickness absence in the workplace.

  • Policies are your best friend
    All organisations should have a suitable sickness absence policy in place. An effective policy will help employers to manage sickness absence. It will also set out clearly to employees the standards of attendance expected and how absences should be reported.
  • Monitoring absence
    Monitoring absence levels is key. This will enable employers to identify specific patterns and issues, and concentrate absence reduction efforts where necessary.
  • Dealing with sickness absence
    Line managers are usually the first port of call for employees calling in sick and should be appropriately trained in their employer’s sickness absence reporting procedure.

    In most cases it will be appropriate during that initial contact to enquire as to the reason for the absence and the likely return date.

  • Contact with employee during sickness
    Appropriate contact should be maintained with the employee. What is appropriate will often depend on the nature of the employee’s role as well as the reason for the employee’s absence.

    Often sickness absence policies have built-in triggers for such contact to be made. For example, after 6 weeks of absence a home visit may be set up to meet with the employee at their home to discuss a likely return to work date.

    A record should be kept of all telephone calls and meetings with the employee whilst on sick leave. In addition, telephone calls should be followed up with letters summarising the contents of the telephone call.

  • Referral to occupational health
    If the sickness is ongoing, or there is a concern as to whether an employee is genuinely ill, they should be referred to occupational health for a medical examination.
  • Return to work meeting
    A return to work meeting with the employee is recommended, regardless of the length of absence. These serve as a means of identifying any underlying issues and support the employee requires. They also act as a reminder to employees that their absence is being monitored.

For more information on managing sickness absence please contact the Devonshires Employment Team.

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