We find that our employer clients are often sympathetic when an employee can’t make it in to work because of illness. However, their patience is limited if the employee doesn’t let them know in good time that they’re going to be off or doesn’t keep them up to date. Failure to report sickness absence can be a conduct issue – meaning that the employee could end up with a disciplinary warning. As we enter into cold and flu season, here are our seasonal top tips to avoid problems:
- Be clear about what you expect from employees in normal circumstances. Who should they contact? Are they required to call in or will an email or text message do? Should they report in themselves or is it OK for a friend or relative to do so? Is there a normal time of day by which they should have let you know? When can they self-certify and when is a doctor’s note required?
- Be reasonable if the employee’s circumstances mean that they can’t comply with the usual rules
- Ensure that managers know what questions they can ask, including the reason for their absence, when the employee expects to be back and whether they have any contagious condition which may affect other staff
- Remind employees of the reporting requirements if they fail to comply
- For persistent offenders, consider formal or informal disciplinary action
- Treat staff consistently – perhaps co-ordinated through HR or a senior manager
- Handle data about employees’ health confidentially and in line with data protection rules
- Use return to work interviews to obtain a fuller picture – it’s up to you to decide whether you comply with ACAS guidance and hold a return to work interview after every absence or just after longer periods of sickness. Our view is that they encourage honesty from employees and can help to reduce short-term absences
It’s a good idea to include some wording about sickness reporting in your employment contracts or staff handbook. We’re happy to prepare some wording for you or to look over what you’ve got in there already – just give either Tiggy or Emma a call.
If your staff sickness levels become a problem – either due to persistent short term absences or a longer period of time off – then you’ll need to carefully manage the situation. It’s always best to be pro-active and we can guide you through every steps of the appropriate process