Unplanned sickness absence already costs UK organisations around 16% of payroll, and sickies (legitimate or otherwise) now take a £29 billion chunk out of British businesses annually. But it’s a fact of life for any office manager that you will from time to time have to manage staff sickness, and sometimes extreme bouts of it. With winter knocking at the door now and all the bugs and sniffles your team are undoubtedly exposed to on an hourly basis, let’s take a closer look at how to prevent (at best) and manage (at the very least) the issue of staff sickness.
Clear Sickness Policy
A robust and clear absence policy for staff sickness must be in place first. This includes absence recording procedures applied equally to all staff members. The contact a sick employee is expected to make with work, and the contact they should expect from work during their time off sick, should be made crystal clear to all.
Return to Work Interviews
The second stage of sickness management is the return to work interview, a key tool in keeping communication lines clear, smoothing over any protocol issues, and offering kindness and support in your colleague’s return to work. Questions to ask are:
- How are they feeling? Do they feel well enough to be back at work?
- Is the colleague taking any medication now that might affect their ability to complete their job safely?
- Do they need any workplace support – different hours, a phased return to work, different duties for example – since their period of illness?
- Are there any other workplace issues that have made work challenging for them? Now is the time, if relevant, to bring up any known office grievances or complaints that might have contributed to the time off work in some way.
This is where it gets trickier. Look for patterns in recurrent absences of certain employees and consider any underlying issues without making judgements. You are entitled to start an open discussion with the colleague in question to try and – gently – dig a little deeper: do they feel supported? How are they finding their workload? Are there any barriers they’re facing at the moment? Some open-ended questions may start a dialogue between the two of you that helps you both arrive at a solution. Do not shy away from these types of chats with your team members. If you can foster an honest and frank ethos within your team you will reap the benefits from a workforce that feels supported and valued. These are the ones less likely to pull sickies, too…
The GP’s surgery has to be one of the most difficult workplaces to pull a plausible sickie from. How do you know an employee is faking it, and how do you deal with this? We’d love to know your top tips so leave us a comment below!
If you are not 100% sure on an employment issue then ACAS is an excellent place for help and advice.