Today, the first Monday in February, is traditionally known as National Sickie Day as on this day the greatest number of employees phone in sick. Last year over 350,000 employees did so. With the consistently grey and wet weather that does nothing to lift the spirits many people will feel like having a day off to lengthen their weekend.
Sickness absence in the UK costs employers millions of pounds and needs to be tackled. The costs can include sick pay, salaries, lost overtime, reduced service and lost business.
Many employees are allowed to email or text their bosses that they are not coming into work due to sickness. Sickness absence policies should clearly state that the employee should phone in and speak to their manager within an hour of their shift starting and should not text or email The employee should not be allowed to let someone else phone in for them. The idea behind this, is that if someone is swinging the lead they might feel embarrassed to speak to their manager and tell a lie about their situation. Hopefully they will think twice about calling in sick.
Research done by ELAS last year highlighted a number of odd excuses for sickness absence:
- A worker called to say he couldn’t come in because his girlfriend’s sister was having a baby. A follow up call by the employer to verify this revealed that there was no girlfriend (and therefore no sister or baby)
- A woman called to say she couldn’t come in because she had been play fighting with her boyfriend and hurt her finger as a result
- A worker called to say they couldn’t make it to work that day because their car exhaust has fallen off on the driveway
- One man said he only had one pair of work trousers and that they were wet because his mum has washed them, so he couldn’t make it into the office
- Another person said they needed new tyres on their car and it would otherwise be illegal for them to drive to work
- One person said they couldn’t afford to put petrol in their car to get to work
- One person said the weather was too bad to cycle to work while another said they were too tired to cycle to work
- One employee took a leave of absence after saying his grandfather had died. The company’s HR manager knew the family and bumped into the grandfather, who was very much alive and well, at the supermarket. The worker was dismissed as a result
It is important to do return to work interviews when the employee comes back. The employer can then check that the employee is ok following their absence and there are no lingering problems. The employer should then discuss any work issues that have occurred whilst the employee has been off sick then clearly make sure they know they have to take responsibility for their attendance.
If the sickness absence problem continues employers should consider taking formal action and use an occupational health advisor support to manage the issue.