'Sickies' cost small business billions - Business Works
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'Sickies' cost small business billions

Derek Kelly, Group Managing Director, ClearSky Small businesses owners are being encouraged to crack down on staff taking 'sickies' after new research revealed that the UK’s 'sick day' culture is costing them up to £3.15 billion each year.

Research carried out by ClearSky HR estimates that the average small business owner loses up to 40 days of working time each year from employees claiming to be ill when they are not. This equates to over £2800 in wasted salaries over a 12-month period.

Experts advise small business owners to protect themselves by putting in place proper procedures to crack down on abuse from workers.

"It’s small business owners that suffer most when staff are absent from work, often having to step in themselves to make up for lost time," says Derek Kelly, Group Managing Director of ClearSky.

"Skivers may see employers who run small businesses as a soft touch, as they don’t always have the same systems and procedures to deal with unplanned absences as larger businesses often do."

"However, by implementing a few simple policies and procedures, small business owners can help to reduce the practice of skiving and save themselves days of lost time and wasted money."

"Here are some ideas to help avoid absenteeism by taking some positive initiatives to motivate and reward employees:"

  • Reward good attendance. For example, more and more companies are offering employees who go a full year without taking any unscheduled leave an additional bonus day’s holiday to use the following year.
  • Take steps to aid your employees’ health and wellbeing. Consider offering all staff members a flu jab in the run-up to winter, or a complementary massage on National Stress Awareness Day. Prevention is better than cure!
  • Use a return-to-work interview after a period of sickness to demonstrate to the employee that the company is committed to managing staff absence. It is also an opportunity to review their absence, to check they’re well enough to get back to work and discuss any ongoing medical issues such as medication or future time off. Also discuss anything the employee may have missed while they were absent. A meeting also gives you a chance to explore ways that you can support them in avoiding further absences and to air any concerns you may have over the level (ie. duration and number of occasions) of absence taken.
  • Consider introducing flexible working hours in order to improve your employees’ work-life balance.
  • Enhance employees’ engagement and motivation by ensuring they are working towards clear goals. Hold regular reviews in order to monitor performance, identify any issues and recognise success.
  • Discourage unplanned absence by making special arrangements for any major sporting or cultural events that are likely to cause a spike in absenteeism, such as the Olympics or an international football tournament.
  • Hold social events such as summer barbecues and Christmas parties. Employees will appreciate the gesture and will come to see work as a fun place to be.
  • Consider offering staff a 'duvet day' once a year. This won’t be a viable option for all companies, but can help to minimise sickies. You’ll be surprised by how many eager and committed employees forgo the option!
  • Guide managers on how to manage staff absence. For example, specify whether absence should be paid / unpaid and what constitutes an unacceptable level of absence. This will help to ensure that absence is managed consistently and appropriately.

"However, if the above approach fails, put policies and procedures in place to be sure you manage unwanted absenteeism:"

  1. Put a clear sickness policy in place that sets out everyone’s rights and responsibilities.
  2. Track absences so that you can spot patterns early and address problems – for example, regular absences before or after the weekend.
  3. Decide what levels of absence should require further explanation. For example, 4 occasions in any 12-month period.
  4. Conduct return to work interviews so that you satisfy yourself that the reasons for the absence were genuine and to discuss any concerns you may have.
  5. Understand how to carry out a disciplinary procedure if you establish that there was no valid reason for an absence from work.

Small business owners can get more information at: www.clearsky-hr.co.uk

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