Managing sickness absence is one of those issues that managers really dislike. Typically the desire to be supportive overwhelms the needs of the business but that in itself is not the answer. So if you are asking yourself, how do I manage sickness absence, read on!
What are the issues?
The main issue that managers have when addressing sickness absence is the feeling that they are punishing someone for being ill. After all, the employee can’t help being ill can they? Well, that depends on the reasons for absence and it highlights the need to complete a return to work interview after each absence. This helps the manager to understand if there are any underlying reasons for the absence and also shows the employee that the organisation cares and is genuinely interested in them.
For this reason, the Return to Work interview shouldn’t be a psuedo-disciplinary meeting, but should be a light touch base meeting that gives the employee the opportunity to raise any concerns. It is also, however, a good opportunity to ensure that the employee knows that their work is valuable and that their absence is felt by their team and the wider organisation. This isn’t intended to blackmail employees to come to work when they are genuinely ill but it is a reminder that no role is a luxury role and that others have to work harder to keep all the plates spinning. Therefore, it is important that persistent absence is addressed so that other team members don’t get stressed by having to constantly pick up extra work.
One area organisations struggle with is consistency. How do you ensure that you treat one employee the same as another? Since the 1980’s, one of the main methods of ensuring consistency has been the Bradford Factor. This method differentiates between short term absence (which is typically disruptive) and long term absence (which can be covered). You can download a heatmap at the end of this document that shows where the areas of concern are.
Issues related to Disability
Extra caution should be applied where an employee is classed as disabled as defined under the Equality Act 2010. The obligations to make reasonable adjustments could lead to you needing to relax any triggers that you have in your sickness absence policy. However, it does not prevent you from managing absence. It is recommended that you get specialist advice before tackling issues of this nature.
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