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Businesses want employees to work Monday to Friday, nine to five. On the other hand, workers don’t want to come in when they are unwell. Sickness strikes and companies have to learn to deal with absences. After all, the show must go on because you don’t want the firm to catch the symptoms, too. And, it will if you don’t know how to react.
Simply picking up the phone and saying “Ok, see you in a couple of days” isn’t the answer. Unfortunately, the process isn’t as black and white as taking people at their word. In the same breath, there are legal issues which a company has to adhere to if they want to avoid a lawsuit.
As you can see, there is nothing straightforward about the common cold or a bout of man flu. Still, the way the business reacts is essential as it will dictate terms for the foreseeable future. Get it wrong, and the consequences may be dire.
On the flip side, play your cards right and the firm may flourish. Here are eight tips to guide you through the dark and into the light.
First thing is first – you have to be able to talk to the person in question. In the beginning, they have to be able to tell the HR team or a boss or manager that they are ill.
Without the means to make the call, it will backfire massively on the company if it is brought to light. Plus, it is a logical step. As soon as you know, you can work out a plan or find a replacement temp for the day.
Usually, the human resource department is the section which takes control, but an SME may be too small to afford one. In this case, ensure everyone has access to a dedicated phone line to report absences. Communication is vital for another reason, and it’s called repeat offences.
Sadly, some workers will push the limits and try to take days off regularly. By communicating with them, the firm can figure out whether the “symptoms” fit the bill. For example, are they using the same illness or does it differ? Are they missing certain days of the week, such as a Monday?
Of course, there is no way to prove an allegation without evidence. Therefore, there is no point pointing fingers and escalating a situation.
However, it isn’t to say you shouldn’t try and nip the issue in the bud. What you have to be is cute, and this is where a doctor’s note comes into play.
Should employees take a prolonged period off work, the company is well within their rights to ask for medical documentation. If a worker can’t provide it, then you take further action. Remember it is wrong to jump the gun and fine or penalize a person without following the necessary steps.
As a rule, the legislation favors the underdog (not you!) so you may end up explaining your intentions to a judge. To prevent a lawsuit, the process has to be bulletproof. Otherwise, a lawyer may poke holes in the case during the trial.
One way for the business to obtain proof is to keep a detailed record of sickness. That way, you will be able to prove absenteeism if challenged by an individual or a team of attorneys.
What’s fantastic about this piece of advice is the ease of access. As long as there is a plan in place, it’s not difficult to recognize someone is off ill and make a quick note.
However, it’s not enough to show they weren’t working on a particular day – you also need to write down why. Consider the “illness” continues and the only option is to fire the said person. An unfair dismissal suit may make its way onto your desk and you will have to prove your actions to the court.
Just saying “oh well, there were multiple occasions when they didn’t make work” won’t cut the mustard. Being able to say when the absences occurred, why they did, and that it was a persistent issue with no medical evidence is the trick. Detailed records are the perfect support system.
It’s hard to be perfect, especially when you have a vested interest in people making it into the office. Consistency is the key as it stops you from punishing some employees and favoring others. Also, it is a clear sign that the business is objective and following stringent rules.
Although the policy is internal, it helps to get external advice, preferably from a legal expert. Employment law support for businesses is a big deal in 2018 as the sector gets more complicated by the year. Not only do you have to be ready for the changes that occur now, but you also have to keep one eye on the future.
It’s an incredibly tricky task for a novice, which is why so many SMEs hire agencies. The right outsourcer will set out the steps, for example. With their help, the company should understand it has to ask for evidence after a week or to give them a verbal warning first. Plus, they should also make the policies fair as well as legitimate.
As much as businesses don’t like to shell out, yours has to if it wants to stay open for business. Unless the person is self-employed, it is down to the company to pay the person’s wages.
Don’t worry because the sick pay doesn’t cover the whole amount. The government has it at about half the employee’s normal rate, so it isn’t a huge figure. Still, it is to the person who can’t afford to live because they are not working at the moment.
Anyway, it’s the law and the firm will suffer if the boss doesn’t manage his/her responsibility. When a worker is ill, it’s vital that the departments in question work in harmony.
For example, HR or whoever deals with illnesses needs to make a note and pass it on to the line manager. This person can then inform their boss, who makes a record.
While this is happening, someone needs to tell the accounting team: don’t pay X a full day’s rate because they are on sick pay. A break in the chain can be chaotic so follow the policies to the letter.
If this post has been a little clinical, now is the time to remember that your employees’ health is paramount. Sure, some people play the system, yet others are legitimately ill and want to work but their condition won’t allow it.
They are the employees that need your help, or else they face losing everything. For this reason, it’s worth considering a flexible working pattern to guide them back to full health.
For instance, a person suffering from an illness may want to work part-time for the moment. Not only does this ease the pressure on the employee, but it isn’t too much hassle for the company. All you have to do is find a temp who can fill in, and that is a piece of cake.
Plus, it’s affordable and won’t break the bank. Another tactic is to grant them unpaid sick leave which is an option even if it sounds unappealing. Or, you can count the days as vacation time to give them an extra couple of weeks to figure out a solution. The moral of the story is not to be strict or rigid.
Return To Work Interviews
As the name suggests, this is where a senior figure sits down with an employee and discusses their absence. It’s crucial that the person doesn’t feel under threat or accused in any way. For the most part, it’s a simple tactic to help integrate absentees back into the workplace.
After all, missing a chunk of time can make it harder to work efficiently as they are not used to the pace. The interview should, therefore, talk about the illnesses, as well as what has changed and what is expected of the employee.
For example, you may say that for the first week, their workload has been shortened. In no way is this negative, but something designed to help them get back to basics. Hopefully, after five days, they will be able to pick up where they left off before as they will feel refreshed and invigorated. Fingers crossed! Obviously, the interviews are another form of record keeping which is why detailed notes are essential.
Whisper it quietly, but a business can terminate a contract if they please. However, you have to follow the right legal procedures and the option has to be mutual. In some circumstances, the person doesn’t have to be the type of worker who takes days off without consent. It may be an employee who can’t make it to the office and is experiencing a long-term lay-off. Always use the company’s legal team and follow their advice to the letter in this scenario.
Do you now know how to act when an employee calls in sick?