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Fever pitch

What to do when sunny days or a World Cup haze sees employee attendance plummet. 

Summer is upon us and the excitement of a few weeks of UK sunshine coupled with the World Cup and Wimbledon events has left many of us (at least until 11 July 2018) in good spirits. Employers, however, are often faced with a common downside of such times: a conveniently timed increase in sickness absence.

It is disappointing that absence in the workplace often increases when the sun comes out, or large sporting events take place. Some genuinely unwell employees find their enthusiasm to head back into the office hindered by a desire to soak up the rays, and others ‘pull a sickie’ after one too many celebratory beers.

Handling suspicious sickness absence is tricky but there are measures you can put in place to help:

  1. Get your documents in order: A well drafted sickness absence policy will explain how to investigate any suspicious absences. It should set out the consequences of fictitious claims and cross refer to your disciplinary policy.
  2. Communicate: Ensure that all staff are aware of your policy on the use and abuse of sickness absence. In the run up to an event, brief your managers so that they are prepared to deal with suspicious absences.
  3. Investigate: Where you do not believe that sickness absence is genuine, follow your disciplinary process to investigate the matter. This may include holding a return to work meeting with the individual to discuss the absence and the reasons for it.
  4. Document: Ensure that any internal procedures for recording absence are followed and minutes are taken of any meetings. Self-certification forms should be completed and securely stored which might help identify a pattern if one emerges. Demonstrating that matters will be investigated and documented should hopefully act as a deterrent to employees who might otherwise try their luck.
  5. Formalise: If it becomes apparent that the absence of the individual was not genuine sickness, instigate your disciplinary procedure.
  6. Be consistent: Consistency is key – all staff should be treated the same and you must be careful not to target specific employees.

There may be ways to avoid employees calling in sick in the first place. Temporary flexible working can be a big hit during the summer months, so that employees can leave early to enjoy the sunshine (or indeed start late after a big game). Allowing staff to dress down can also help and hosting in-office screenings of major events is another option.

The above is only a brief guide to a complex situation. If you want to know more about handling sickness absence, please come along to our seminar on this topic on 6 November 2018 at Novotel on Friar Street, Reading.