From common colds and mild cases of the flu to chronic migraines and accident-related injuries, employees call in sick for all kinds of reasons. As an employer it’s important to respect sick days, which are designed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees.
After all, sick pay is a basic right which all permanent employees in the UK are entitled to. However, when sick days start to become a regular occurrence, it can be frustrating. Especially when they form a pattern and start to have a negative impact on productivity, profitability and team cohesion.
That’s why it’s so important to take sick days seriously. Not just to protect the health of your employees, but also the health of your business. In this post, we’ll discuss how to approach sick leave, and how to deal with an employee who is always sick and taking too many sick days.
A policy of care and compassion
First of all, it’s important not to be judgemental or dismissive of people’s genuine reasons for being off sick. In a survey commissioned by UK medical insurance provider AXA PPP Healthcare, respondents cited mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and stress as the reasons they were most likely to lie about when calling in sick at work. When asked why, they admitted they were afraid of being judged, concerned about not being believed or worried about their manager’s reaction.
If you notice an employee start to regularly call in sick, coupled with strange behaviour or tell-tale signs of depression, stress or anxiety, showing compassion and understanding is essential. Thankfully, growing awareness surrounding mental health has made it easier for employees to take time off when it’s needed.
There’s also been plenty of coverage surrounding paid and unpaid menstrual leave policies, with the goal of normalising women’s healthcare and quashing the period taboo. Movements like these are fantastic and play a pivotal role in helping the UK create healthy, inclusive and non-discriminatory workplaces.
How to tactfully approach your employee about sick days
Whether your employee is struggling with a mental illness, going through a rough period in their personal life or is dealing with sensitive health issues they would like to keep private, it’s important to offer support and compassion where it’s deserved. As an employer you’re not necessarily entitled to know exactly what’s going on so don’t be too pushy.
You can however confront your employee and let them know you’ve noticed they’re taking a lot of time off work and ask if there’s anything you can do to help or support them. To avoid coming across too abruptly, it’s a good idea to introduce a general ‘policy of care’ outlining the workplace’s stance on mental health and its commitment to taking care of employees and creating a supportive working environment.
If you don’t feel comfortable confronting an employee on a personal level, use professionalism as grounds for starting a conversation about their absenteeism. Let the employee know that while they’re a valued member of the team, lack of attendance is causing issues which may need to be addressed by reshuffling workloads or taking on a new hire. This will let the employee know you’ve noticed their non-attendance and are taking it seriously, without accusing them of skiving off.
Dig a little deeper
In many cases, employee sick days are completely justified by illness or personal circumstances. Let’s face it, even the occasional “sickie” is to be expected and shouldn’t be frowned upon too much. After all, your employee isn’t much use with a crushing hangover, or distracted and wishing they were somewhere else.
That said, it’s also all too common for employees to take advantage of sympathetic workplaces and claim superfluous sick days. Not only can taking too many sick days damage team cohesion and impact the productivity of a business, but on-demand staffing platform Catapult claims non-attendance costs the UK economy £100 billion per year.
Annually, British businesses lose more than 137 million working days due to sickness and absenteeism, including fraudulent leave. That’s why it’s important to take action if you think an employee is taking too many sick days. Here’s how to catch a dishonest employee taking too many sick days:
Asking questions is one of the easiest and most effective tips on how to deal with an employee who is always sick. Sometimes, a simple follow up like “how are you feeling?” or “how was your day off?” can be enough to fluster an employee who is taking too many sick days and catch them in the act of lying.
Hire a private investigator
If you’re confident an employee is taking too many sick days but simply don’t have the time to confirm your suspicions, hiring a private investigator could held you close the case. While it does require a financial outlay, you’ll ultimately be saving your business in sick pay wages and lost productivity.
From open source intelligence and reconnaissance observation to GPS tracking, Hunter Surveillance Services offers a range of specialised services designed to uncover the truth and if necessary, catch out dishonest employees who are taking too many sick days.
How to deal with an employee who is always sick
Document sick days
Build a concrete case by keeping meticulous records every time an employee skips an entire day of work, arrives late or leaves early due to sickness. This way you can avoid ambiguous accusations and instead provide the employee, and any superiors, with specific dates and information on employees taking too many sick days. With the help of a private investigator, you can also keep tabs on their movements during ‘sick days’ and add even more evidence to your case.
Lay down the law
According to a survey from British insurance provider Direct Line, a huge 96% of UK employees don’t know how much sick pay they’re entitled to. To clear up any confusion, and avoid being accused of pointing the finger, it’s best to do your research and let your employee know exactly how many sick days they’re legally entitled to.
Ask for a doctor’s ‘fit note’
Under UK law, employees must issue their employer with a doctor’s ‘fit note’ if they take more than seven days in a row off work and are claiming sick leave. This period of taking too many sick days includes weekends, bank holidays and other non-working days.
Issue a written warning
When considering how to deal with an employee who is always sick, a written warning can be an effective way to crystallise your stance on excessive sick days. Sometimes, a stern warning can be all it takes for an employee to reset their attitude and realise they’re not going to get away with fraudulent absenteeism.
Put a stop to fraudulent sick days
If you’re ready to take action with an employee who is taking too many sick days, get in touch with Hunter Surveillance Services. Our professional team of private investigators in Lancashire can provide the evidence you need to confirm your suspicions, giving you grounds for dismissal with dishonest employees.
Contact us today by emailing [email protected] or calling the team on 07555 712919.