“Cover up your coughs and sneezes. If you don’t, you’ll spread diseases.”
Winter is upon us and so, it seems, tis the season for sickness according to some of my clients. Most employers notice a huge increase in sickness absence in the winter months particularly December. A few years ago a survey by BUPA found 71% of employers had a problem caused by coughs, colds and flu.
The impact on remaining staff due to increasing workloads and costs to a business due to absent staff can cause a real headache for business owners.
It is really important to have a sickness absence procedure in place which is followed by all employees. The sickness procedure should be clearly stated in the employment contract and employee handbook. Employees who fail to call in sick should be considered AWOL which is deemed to be either misconduct or gross misconduct depending on the company’s view and statement in the employee handbook. There should be no excuses for calling in. Ideally it should be the sick employee, or if they are considered to be on their “deathbed”, a friend, partner or spouse should oblige. Compliance and adherence to the sickness absence procedure is paramount to ensure good staff morale. if employees are allowed to “get away with it”, such an attitude will cause big problems in a company.
Return to work interviews are a useful management tool so that the spotlight is placed on the returning employee who is questioned about their sickness absence. Managers should check if their version of events adds up. For example, photos on Facebook where they have been partying the night before a sick day needs to be questioned or if they have been seen out, seemingly, not worse for wear.
Many companies now operate SSP instead of generous occupational sick pay schemes. SSP can be a useful tool to prevent intermittent odd sick days with employees who are on lower wages.
An alternative can be health promotions to employees of how they can improve their health and fitness over the winter months can help eg encouragement of flu jab uptakes.