At this time of year employee absenteeism can be on the rise. It’s not the coughs and colds that lead to the “I’m too ill to work” telephone calls. It tends to be more related to sunburn and Pimms!
Obviously, it can be very difficult to prove that someone isn’t genuinely ill and there are some situations that can arise that need careful handling.
1. “I was ill when I was on holiday”
One of the most frustrating situations an employer can find themselves in is when an employee returns from their two week holiday and informs you that they were actually sick for a week of the holiday so they want to take a week as sick leave and have the holiday at another time.
Legally, you are required to allow employees to take annual leave again if they end up being ill whilst on holiday, but there are some requirements which you should have in your employee absence policy which protect your business from spurious claims.
Your employee absence policy should include statements explaining that, if someone is on holiday and find themselves unwell then they need to contact the business as soon as possible. In addition, you can include a requirement that an individual needs to obtain medical evidence to confirm their illness. Of course, this can all prove difficult if someone is abroad so do retain an element of discretion and flexibility.
2. “My plane was delayed so I can’t return when I said I would”
Flight delays happen but if an individual is delayed returning from their holiday then you are under no obligation to pay them for the additional time. You can either insist that they take the time as a holiday or as unpaid leave.
3. Increased Friday or Monday Absence
This is something to watch for during the summer months.
It can be very tempting for employees to try to add a couple of extra days to the weekend by being “sick” on a Friday or Monday.
It can be very difficult to prove whether someone was genuinely ill or just enjoying the weather so be watchful of pattern absence.
4. ‘Return to Work’ Interviews
Implementing return to work interviews can be a way of tackling employee absenteeism problems not just in the summer but all year round. A return to work interview is a useful way for you to ensure that you gain early insight into any problems an individual is facing either at home or in the workplace. By having this early insight, you can work on supporting the employee in appropriate ways.
In addition, knowing that you need to answer questions about your absence when you return can be a deterrent for those people who are not genuinely ill.
If you do choose to implement these interviews, be aware the interviews need to be performed for all absence rather than just for claims you believe to be spurious. Further, if you think that someone may be being economical with the truth, then be careful in your approach.
5. Revising your Absence Policy
The points you should cover in your Absence Policy are:
- Evidence requirements – if an employee is ill during their holiday and wishes to take the time again, you should confirm what evidence you need them to provide. Whilst your policy for absence during normal working time may be that a doctor’s certificate is only needed after 7 days’ absence, you can have a more stringent requirement when an employee is claiming sickness during a holiday and request a doctor’s certificate for each day. If there is a cost associate with obtaining such a certificate then the business will need to cover this.
- Reporting requirements – you should be clear what the reporting requirements are for individuals who are sick during their holiday. You need to make allowance for time differences and communication challenges but it’s very unlikely that an individual would be unable to notify someone of their illness prior to their return to work. Your policy should state this as a requirement, but you will need to be flexible if you believe that an individual genuinely couldn’t get a message to you.
- Be clear about what counts as “illness” – a cold that meant an individual felt too poorly to make the most of the ‘all you can eat’ buffet doesn’t count! The illness has to be such as it would prevent them from doing their job not that it stopped them from enjoying their holiday.
6. More Help with Summer Absence Issues
Employee absenteeism can be a challenging area to manage and no employer wants to accuse someone of lying about their health unless they have very clear evidence to support their accusations.
We’re more than happy to talk through any challenges you’re facing or review your absence policy to make sure it protects your business. Give us a call on 0203 319 1649 if you think you might have a problem and we’ll run through some options with you.