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Throwing a Sickie

It’s getting to that time of year again when cold and flu viruses cause increasing numbers of people to be off work. Genuine sickness is a legitimate reason to be off work. After all, no one wants to catch your germs and managers who care about the welfare of their team won’t be encouraging you into work until fully recovered.

Yet think about those who ring up to say they are sick and you just sense they are faking a sore throat or overplay the “dying swan” routine then you hear them shouting to the kids to get ready for school. Worse still is when your employee just sends a text message or an email. You’ve got no way of evaluating whether they are being truthful. Some people really do believe that when their contract states x number of paid sick days, they should actually make use of them!

We all need time off work during our careers for unexpected personal issues; divorce, sick family member, operations, chronic illness and yes as I’ve talked about in a previous article, as a result of stress. Who hasn’t had a hangover on a Monday morning or wanted to watch some major sporting event on TV. Employers were encouraged to put measures into place before the Olympics to deal with unauthorized absences.   Enlightened businesses offered perks to keep people at work: screening events at work, relaxing internet usage, offering greater flexibility regarding working hours. However research carried out by CIPD now shows that 48% of firms refused to do this which resulted in …yes… “people throwing a sickie.”

Kronos International, a global management company confirm that absenteeism costs employers 8% of payroll.

So what can businesses do if they find an increasing amount of unauthorized absence this winter?

Communicate Policy

Make it a policy that staff telephone between certain times to explain reason for unplanned absence. Avoid giving employees a reason to say they couldn’t get in touch. In some cases an email might be the only way they can communicate – no credit on phones being a common excuse – but it should be at least an hour before the working day starts.

Return to work meetings

For longer absences, make sure your employee is fully recovered and bring them up to date. Be open to issues, problems and anxieties and try to find ways of offering flexible working while these get resolved; reduced hours, home working, shorter weeks. Work-home interference and emotional pressures influence abseentism. ( Schaufeli)

Monitor absences

Monitoring and record individual absences will show whether there is a pattern eg. Friday afternoons, Wednesday mornings. Are there any correlations to the time away from work and some activity? Tuesday night football match following drinks in the pub?

Communicate with staff

To analyse underlying causes of staff absence, it’s important to talk to them. Find out how they are feeling about the work; is there anything going on in their home life which is bothering them; their general welfare. Ask for suggestions.

Positive ways to reduce absenteeism

There a number of ways to boost morale, be more flexible but these have to fit in with the nature of the business. Family friendly policies, more home working where feasible, welfare and stress management support, unpaid leave of absence, compassionate leave are just some examples.

Lead by example

If you take extra time out to do your Christmas shopping without logging it… then why shouldn’t others… is the message you are sending.

Follow company policy

Always follow company policy and don’t override the rights of staff with long term illness or disability. Decide what are acceptable levels and document everything. Pick up on problems early on through performance reviews and know when to implement more formal processes. Moreover, make sure your staff know that unauthorized time of work is a serious matter.

Why would they do it?