In a small or medium sized business, the absence of a member of staff can have a huge impact on the day to day operation. When sickness absence becomes a problem, do you know the best way to deal with the matter and what your rights are as an employer?
Monitoring days off
It’s important to monitor absence carefully. What starts with an odd day off here and there for one of your staff members can quickly develop into a pattern or into longer term absence. Recording and keeping a check on employee days off allows you to calculate the cost to your business and to make sure that the costs don’t spiral out of control. Whilst in the majority of cases, the sickness is genuine, it’s interesting to see if your staff are taking regular Monday’s or Friday’s off work on sick leave or if other patterns are developing. Knowing the details allows you to tackle the problem early.
Short Term Absence
The policies and reporting procedures which you put in place for your business will help to set out your expectations for your staff.
Here’s some of the things you need to consider:-
Calling in Sick
How do you want to hear from your staff member who will not be attending for work. It’s easy for people who are only mildly ill to send a text or e-mail, however, would it be more effective in preventing optional absence by asking them to call you direct to explain? In the event of longer term absence, how often do you want to hear from a staff member who has been signed of by a Doctor? It may be that you want to hear every day for the first week then weekly, or at the end of the period of sign off.
Decide on Sick Pay
Dependent upon your business, you’ll need to decide how much of the time taken off sick, you will grant at full pay. Be aware of the statutory requirements on sick leave and pay and think about if you will give additional time off over and above the minimum. Whist sick pay is a benefit to staff members and shows that the employer is reasonable in accepting that people get ill, how do you manage costs? For longer term absence, when will the period of sick pay end and when do you stop paying your employee?
Claiming Money back for Sickness Absence
In the Isle of Man your employees are entitled to claim SSP from the government in the case of long term absence. It makes sense, where you are continuing to pay the absent employee to ask them to submit their claim and have this deducted from salary to offset your costs. What will be your stance when the company sick pay runs out and your staff member is on unpaid leave?
Keeping in Touch
Statistics show that the longer the employee has been off, the more difficult it is for them to return to work. You still have a statutory duty of care to your employee whilst they are absent and the employee has a duty to be contactable during this time. For serious long term absences, you may want to seek external advice from a Doctor or occupational health professional. Such communications can assist in your understanding of the impact of the reason for absence and to help you prepare for a return to work. Taking into account data protection rules, what will be your policy and at what point would you consider this action?
Robust policies and good communication channels can help to reduce absence which is unacceptable due to it’s length or the reasons. It’s important to understand the legal position when addressing unacceptable absence before taking action. Getting it wrong can open the door to legal challenge, bad feeling and costly employee tribunal claims.
Return to Work
Following an absence, you’ll need to talk to the employee to ascertain the reason for absence and the information you collect may help you to recognise a pattern or underlying problem. Putting in place return to work interview and processes will formalise the conversations and demonstrate to the employee the impact of absence. For employees who have been off for an extended period, a medical professional may have recommended a phased return to work. You’ll need to think about what is reasonable and acceptable for your business based on the advice you’ve received.
Employee absence is a significant cost for businesses and the impact to a small business can be huge, both in terms of lost productivity and customer dissatisfaction. Where it causes interruption to the running of the business, the affect can be far reaching and expensive, however many businesses fail to monitor the cost or the levels of absence. Putting in place some simple policies and rules can help to protect your business and discourage high absence levels amongst employees.
About the Author
This guide has been written by Nicola Quayle, founder of Positive Solutions HR Limited. Contact us on 07624 481335 or email@example.com for further information or a no obligation chat.