The annual cost of sickness to UK employers has increased to £29bn according to a recent study undertaken by PwC. Nearly one million workers are off sick for a month each year. The analysis carried out shows that British workers take more than four times as many days off sick than their global colleagues.
Most sickness absences may be genuine but what if they are not? To help you manage these situations employers should have a clear absence policy in place which is communicated to all staff.
The key things you should consider doing are:
• Absence reporting Ensure the employee knows who they need to contact personally to report their absence.
• Self-certification Ensure the employee knows they have to complete a self-certification form for absences of more than 7 days.
• Return to work interviews Have return to work Interviews. They are also a good way to gauge an employee’s wellbeing and ascertain if there are any underlying issues an employee may have such as, having to care for a sick relative or being bullied by a colleague.
• Formal Processes Consider a formal review process which is triggered when there are a certain number of absences in a rolling year. For example where an employee has four separate periods of absence.
• Occupational health advisors Consider using these specialists to help speed up a return to work.
• Disability and reasonable adjustments Consider whether the employee has a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If they do, an employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to enable the employee to remain working.
Employers must ensure they act fairly and reasonably and be consistent in their approach when dealing with staff on sick leave.
What if someone is not genuinely sick?
The employer’s Disciplinary Procedure should be used if an investigation reveals this is not a genuine sickness absence.
A new scheme to reduce the number of sickness absences
The Government is rolling out a new scheme, the Health and Work Service from October 2014 in some parts of the country which will then run nationally from April 2015.
The scheme is designed to provide advice to employees, employers and GPs on the absence and to enable employers and GPs to refer employees, who are absent for four weeks or more for an occupational health assessment. The objective is to create a return to work plan to help individuals with health conditions to remain in or return to work sooner.
To help identify underlying issues and barriers to returning to work, an employer should encourage employees to be open and honest in voicing their concerns and need for help or flexibility. These discussions assist in managing and reducing sickness absence. It is important to set clear expectations for all parties involved.
This note is not intended to substitute legal advice. For further information on reviewing or implementing policies or protecting your position with or against a claim, please contact: