Last year it was estimated that 137.3million working days were lost due to sickness or injury which is an equivalent to 4.3 days per worker. As you will know, missed days will cost your business money so it is vital to have a process in place to manage sick days and ensure that no unnecessary days are lost.
Here are my top tips for managing sickness absence in the workplace:
Sickness Absence policy
Make sure you have a written policy in place which includes a procedure for managing sickness absence and sets out the standards of attendance and reporting requirements when an employee is absent. Managers should always refer to the policy to ensure that staff are dealt with consistently and fairly.
Reporting sickness absence
Ensure that you obtain the reason for the absence, the likely return date and any other information to assist in the management of the business. Line managers should be familiar with the sickness absence procedure and apply it in practice.
Evidence of ill-health
You must request evidence concerning the ill-heath. This could be a self-certification form where the absence is for seven calendar days or less or a Statement of Fitness for Work (known as a fit note) from a doctor for a longer period of absence.
Keep in touch with the employee
During periods of absence, the employer should keep in contact with the employee periodically. The amount of contact with the employee should be reasonable and employers need to ensure that they do not conduct themselves in a way that could be considered invasive or amount to harassment.
Depending on the length and reason for the absence, consider whether it is necessary to obtain medical evidence. This might mean writing to the employee’s GP to obtain further information with the employee’s consent or asking them to attend an occupational health assessment.
Ensure you pay the individual the correct sick pay entitlement. This might be Statutory Sick Pay or contractual sick pay set out in the contract of employment.
Keep accurate records
Recording levels of sickness absence allows you to monitor any trends or improvements that can be made to avoid future absences. It is important to keep records of all telephone conversations, meetings, letters and emails regarding any individual’s sickness absence. It may be necessary to rely on this evidence in any subsequent employment tribunal proceedings.
Fit for Work Service
Where an employee has been absent for 4 weeks or more, you can refer them to have a voluntary occupational health assessment.
Return to work interviews
When your employee has returned to work following a period of sickness absence, you may want to conduct a return to work interview. These interviews are generally carried out by a line manager as soon as possible after the employee’s return from sick leave, ideally on their first day back at work. By carrying out return to work interviews, and making it clear in your sickness policy that you will do so, you can discourage unauthorised and non-genuine sickness absence.
It is important to be mindful that some conditions related to sickness absence may fall under the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. In some circumstances, an employer may be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments might include a change to hours, phased return to work, alteration of duties or equipment to assist the individual to carry out their duties.
If you require any advice on the management of sickness absence, please contact Farleys employment law team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us online here.