Feeling sick of work? - Business Works
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Feeling sick of work?

Laura Tattersall, Senior HR Strategist, Direct Law and Personnel Absenteeism, skiving, sickies. Whatever you want to call it, the urge to have a duvet day was reported to have cost UK business £34 million pounds during one single day this year: the 6th of February, National Sickie Day!

Having an employee absent due to sickness can be inconvenient if the employee possesses specialist knowledge and skills. It can also be costly should their terms and conditions of employment guarantee contractual sick pay. So what is it that you as an employer can reasonably do to prevent this strain on your resources?

Sickness absence needs to be monitored and addressed in order to ensure a business gets the most out of its employees. Fit notes and trigger points are your ally to be called upon to eliminate unjustified absences and to help you as a business find a workable solution.

The fit note was introduced to replace the old sick notes in April 2010. A fit note is a statement of fitness for work and its aim is to outline an ability to work. It should be used as a tool to enable line managers to authorise and justify work absences or find an alternative working task that would be more suitable.

Extended absence without any proper reporting is a slippery slope and can not only leave you out of pocket, but runs the risk of employees taking excessive and unjustified time off and claiming these as sickness. You can keep this in-check by adopting an absence process that uses 'trigger points'. Trigger points are your timeline of action to be implemented following an employee’s absence. This is a beneficial tool in order to monitor absence and also ensures staff are aware you will take action should they reach any of these trigger points.

Be aware that, although your sickness and absence policies are not exempt to an employee classed as disabled, you should still approach with caution. If an employee is protected under the Equalities Act 2010, it would be unreasonable to take formal action should the absence be related to this disability. However, periods of absence unrelated to this disability should be dealt with the same as all other employees.

Be aware that employees absent due to sickness will continue to accrue annual leave and, unlike normal circumstances, these holidays will not expire at the end of the annual leave year. Therefore, for example, an employee on long-term sickness for a period of 2 years where this absence had not been managed and addressed will have accrued a minimum of 56 days holiday.

Any contractual payment to employees whilst absent due to sickness has an impact on the company. There are salary payments to consider and the potential of paying an additional salary to cover the job role in their absence - extra training, recruitment agency fees, extra administration - the list goes on.

The key to managing employee sickness and absence is to make sure you have a process already in place. The process should be outlined in your employees’ terms and conditions of employment, as well communicated and briefed across all line management staff. If you can ensure this is in place, you as the employer are in a much better position to make an informed and supportive decision cost effectively and legally.

For more information about employment law and HR, please visit: www.dlp.org.uk

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