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The winter months see an increased rate of absence caused by seasonal illnesses. However according to a report published by BUPA, 42% of HR professionals believe the true cause of absence in the month of December is 'overindulgence' or 'illness resulting from overindulgence'. Only 33% believe that absence rates are caused by an increase in genuine illness at this time of year.
Employers should be proactive as opposed to reactive in managing absence and prepare themselves ahead of this December dip. To limit those less ‘genuine' cases, it's crucial that every business has a robust policy in place to manage sickness absences and that they enforce the policy consistently.
Laying down clear procedures on how to tackle sickness related absenteeism will help prevent problems from developing and ensure staff members recognise the impact of their absence. Carrying out return to work interviewing after each absence can be a very effective tool to address and reduce absences.
Managing weather-enforced absence
After the harsh recent winters, many employers will already have an "adverse weather" policy in place and have told their workforce what is expected of them.
There is no requirement to pay employees who fail to report to work as they are in effect taking "unauthorised leave". In practice however, few employment contracts will state that employees who cannot get into work because of the weather will lose a day's pay. In addition the employees who have tried and failed to get to work may feel aggrieved at losing their pay. You should therefore assess whether or not paying employees would be in the best interests of your business.
It may of course be the case that the financial burden of paying staff is outweighed by the benefits that such a gesture would have on staff morale and productivity in the long run. Explaining this to employees can go some way to helping them understand why they can't be paid if they don't work.
Pam Loch, Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.
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