With the Euro’s 2016, Wimbledon and the Olympics, employers need to be prepared and have clear employment law policies and procedures in place covering absences, holidays, internet and social media.
I have already seen an increase in enquires from employers becoming victim to spurious absences from employees due to the commencement of the increased football coverage. Today’s big match England v Wales has already caused problems today for many of our employer clients.
Naturally as a result of this summer of sport there has been an increased celebratory and “holiday” atmosphere around the UK which has only been heightened by the commencement of Euro 2016. This in conjunction with increased social gatherings and broader licensing hours at many pubs and clubs appears to already be resulting in increased employee and worker absenteeism and without appropriate reason or notification.
This will only increase over the summer months with the further prolonged impending sporting events and employers who have not taken advice and are not appropriately prepared will leave themselves vulnerable.
Notwithstanding this, it is important employers are also cautious and seek to balance their actions in accordance with employment law in order to minimise the risks of claims and allegations of unfairness and discrimination.
I recommend the following:
- Absence & Holiday Policies
It is advisable to have clear absence and holiday policies. These not only inform employees and workers as to what is expected of them but it ensures they are aware of the potential consequences of non-compliance, which is crucial when seeking to discipline or terminate an employee’s or worker’s employment.
- Preventative Action
Make it clear in advance to employees and workers that unauthorised absences during these periods will be assessed and monitored and employees and workers will be expected to have reasonable explanations for any time-off.
- Record Keeping
Employee and workers attendance should always be recorded. Keeping accurate records of attendance will help the employer identify any absence patterns. This may be imperative in any disciplinary process.
- Investigating Employee/ Worker Absence
Employers have a duty to investigate the reasons behind employee absence as case law has confirmed that a failure to investigate injury or health prior to dismissing an employee will probably make the dismissal unfair. It can also result in the employer inadvertently discriminating against the employee or worker if he or she has a disability. Return to work interviews can also be a fundamental part of the process and a useful tool in identifying any cause for concern or any reasonable adjustment that needs to be made on the employees or workers return to work.
- Obtaining a Medical Report
Medical reports are not necessary to be dealing with a “one off” absence but if there is a wider absence problem then a report (providing you obtain consent) can help to get to the bottom of any underlying issues affecting an employee. Such reports can also confirm whether the employee is classed as “disabled” within the definition of the Equality Act 2010 which can raise awareness of your legal duty and minimise the risk of a discrimination claim. The report should be discussed with the employee and the employee has a right to see it before it is disclosed to an employer.
- Contact with an Absent Employee
An absence policy should clearly state the requirements for an employee of notify the employer of absence and the reason for this.
For employees’ absent long-term, a balance is required between keeping an employee “in the loop” and pressuring him/her to return to work. You should also try to agree a method of communication with the employee.
- Deciding on the Action Required
It is possible to dismiss fairly an employee for either repeated short-term absence or a long-term absence however, this should only be done after an investigation has been carried out which may involve obtaining a medical report and considering whether reasonable adjustments could have been made. It is likely you may need to justify your actions at a later date to avoid or minimise the risk of employment claims and proceedings.
- Internet Usage & Social Media
It may be the case that absence is not the problem but with the use of smart phones and the internet work productivity is affected. It is imperative that a business protects itself with thorough IT and communications and social media policies.
Farleys Solicitors LLP are specialists in HR and Employment law for employers.
If you require advice or assistance regarding contracts of employment; staff handbooks; the absence of employees; absence, holiday or social media policies; or the disciplinary or dismissal or negotiated exit of an employee, please contact me here or on 0845 287 0939
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