13 Nov 2017

Top 5 Tips for...Managing Persistent Short-Term Sickness Absence

Top 5 Tips for...Managing Persistent Short-Term Sickness Absence

Dealing with persistent short-term sickness absence can be a headache for employers. Follow our top 5 tips for dealing with this issue:

1.Ensure you have a robust sickness absence and reporting policy in place

It is so important to have a strong sickness absence policy in place that tells employees how absences should be reported, how they will be monitored and what the consequences of poor attendance could be. Monitoring might include requesting medical reports or arranging return-to-work interviews. A robust policy should provide for trigger points after which a certain level of sickness absence will lead to formal meetings and warnings. If there is a failure to improve after a series of such warnings then an employer can consider dismissal for poor attendance. 

2.Follow that policy

This may seem basic but it is surprising how many employers have policies in place that they do not actually follow. A good sickness policy will usually guide both the employee and the employer through the management of the absence. It is important that an employer follows their policy in each case for each employee to ensure that there can be no inconsistency arguments by a disgruntled employee at a later date.

3.Consider if other factors might be affecting the employee’s attendance

It can be tempting to consider that an employee who is regularly off sick is simply a ‘malingerer’. Employers can get their fingers burnt if they jump to that conclusion without evidence, particularly if the employee has provided self-certification forms and medical certificates from their GP. Often there are other factors involved affecting their attendance and an employer should endeavour to get to the bottom of these where possible. Consider, for example, is the employee under pressure at work? Could they be being bullied by another employee? Are there problems with childcare? Considering and investigating these issues can often help to improve attendance.

4.Could the employee be considered ‘disabled’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010?

When managing sickness absence it is always important to consider whether the employee might be  ‘disabled’. An individual could be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This is often not something that an employer will be able to establish themselves and is often a question asked of an occupational health provider. Where disability is a possibility then the employer must tread carefully when following a sickness absence policy and particularly when considering dismissal. The employer must consider whether there are any ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can be made to take account of their condition. This might include allowing the disabled employee a higher level of sickness absence than a non-disabled employee.

5.Consider incentivising good attendance

Offering an incentive for each year in which an employee has good attendance (taking disabilities into account) can be a good way of discouraging employees from taking the so-called ‘duvet day’. A small financial incentive might be all it takes to decrease a company’s sickness figures.

If you would like more advice on managing sickness absence, whether it be persistent short-term absence or long-term absence, please contact our Employment Team on 0141 225 5421.

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