According to the latest statistics from the Health & Safety Executive, employee absenteeism cost UK businesses £ 14.2 billion last year.
Jo Bostock, Business Adviser at the Forum of Private Business, suggests employers should have effective absence monitoring procedures in place such as the Bradford Factor to nip workplace absences in the bud at the onset. “Sickie season is a potential challenge and it is a good idea for firms to look at how they can prepare.” Jo observed.
Her top tips to tackling absence in the sickness season include:
Line managers can look at planning in advance of the sickness season. They should review/implement rules and procedures. This may include monitoring processes such as the Bradford Factor. Systems such as this need to be implemented formally before businesses can begin using them. Also make sure your absence reporting procedures are up to date, so that where these are not followed appropriate action can be taken.
Keep clear records
The first step you should take in controlling absence is to maintain records of all employees’ absences and lateness. The records should be kept in a form which makes analysis of the data relatively simple. This will help you observe and monitor each individual’s absence levels so that any unacceptable levels of sickness can be highlighted and effective steps taken to tackle any underlying issues.
Be clear on the different types of absence
There are three types of sickness absence:
Short-term absence – the occasional day(s) off here and there with minor ailments. This can be frequent days of absence or, alternatively, irregular sickness absence.
Long-term absence – where an employee is absent from work for an extended period of time with a prolonged illness or disability.
Unauthorised absence – short periods of absence – an occasional day off here and there with a minor ailment – where the employee has failed to notify the company.
Be clear on the rules around sickness pay
When it comes to sick pay, employees are not legally entitled to receive payment for periods of unauthorised absence or lateness. However, for sickness absence, an employee is entitled by law to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or, alternatively, company sick pay, if you provide this contractual benefit. It is entirely at your discretion whether you provide anything above SSP. An employee is entitled to SSP once they have been absent from work due to sickness for a period of four continuous days or more – technically known as a Period of Incapacity to Work (PIW). All days count towards this, including weekends and bank holidays if the employee normally works these. No payment is due for the first three days, which are known as ‘waiting days’. Periods of sickness fewer than eight weeks apart are linked as one PIW for payment of SSP. So if an employee is sick for a second time during an eight-week period, and the total absence is four days or more, SSP should be paid from the first day of the second absence.
The maximum number of weeks for which an employee is entitled to receive SSP is 28 weeks in any PIW. SSP is payable at the current statutory rate and is to be treated as part of an employee’s normal earnings. It is, therefore, subject to tax and National Insurance deductions. There are exemptions to those who are entitled to receive SSP. Further advice on SSP and current rates can be found at www.gov.uk.
Also don’t forget that as an employer you are legally required to maintain records of SSP payments for a period of at least three years after the end of the tax year to which they relate.
Remind employees about their annual leave allowance
The beginning of the year is also a good opportunity to remind staff of how much annual leave they have taken or need to take to make their allocation. If employees have a significant amount of time left it may be a good idea to encourage staff to book time off. It is advisable to have something written into the contract of employment as to what happens to any unused leave at the end of the year.
Explore flexibility where possible
Where possible you could also look at allowing staff to work from home by prior arrangement, as this could also help in reducing the potential for increased sickness absences.
If in doubt seek advice
The Forum of Private Business offers advice on a range of issues including managing sickness absence. For further information visit www.fpb.org.
Image: Sickness via Shutterstock