Top tips for managing sickness absence effectively

Managing employee sickness absence can be tricky to navigate for employers. Sickness absence is inevitably going to be more prevalent in the winter months as people are more prone to pick up bugs at this time of year. However, the cold weather and dark mornings also make people more likely to “pull a sickie” for an illicit duvet day. Studies indicate that sickness absence rates in the workplace more than double in the winter compared to the summer months. Sickness absence can adversely affect productivity and be costly for businesses, therefore, it is important that employers have suitable policies and procedures in place to effectively deal with sickness absence.

Nicola Gray, Employment Law Partner shares our 5 key tips to ensure that employers deal with sickness absence appropriately this winter: 

Have a clear sickness absence policy

Having a clear absence policy is crucial to managing sickness at any time of year. A sickness absence policy should include details of the expected process that should be followed when dealing with sickness absence. For example, it should set out the notice required to inform of absence, how management should be informed of absence (such as a telephone call rather than text message), how employees should certify their absence, and details of any return-to-work meetings. This is key to making sure that no steps are missed, and a consistent approach is taken. 

Hold return-to-work interviews after every absence

Return-to-work interviews are a useful tool to help employers get an understanding of the reason(s) for any sickness absence and whether there is anything they can do to support the employee. Return-to-work interviews can also help discourage truancy as employees will have to report to someone about the nature of their absence.  The content and structure of the meetings can be tailored to consider the length and nature of the absence it considers.

Ensure managers are trained in dealing with sickness absence

It is important to ensure that all managers are trained on how to deal with sickness absence to ensure that they don’t take a different approach for one employee compared to another which could have a detrimental impact on employee relations.

Maintain communication throughout

It is important to understand the nature of the absence, how long it will last etc. However, we always caution that it should be an appropriate level of communication – employers should not inundate the employee with emails for updates.

Be consistent

To avoid the risk of a potential claim, it is important that employers do not take a different approach depending on the particular employee. 

Upon reading this Article if you would like further advice on managing sickness absence, please do not hesitate to contact us, our Employment Law solicitors would be happy to help.

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