Staff sickness absences were at an all-time low during the pandemic and the ‘work from home if you can’ rules meant that we weren’t going anywhere or seeing anyone to share germs. 

It’s come as no surprise that now we are all learning to live with Covid alongside all the other seasonal colds and viruses, we are seeing a massive increase in staff sickness absence. These are affecting every business but most cruelly retail, hospitality and travel seem to be hit the hardest again! 

How you manage staff sickness absences will have a huge impact on the levels of it you’ll deal with. 

The majority of absences are short term. There are usually from ad-hoc days to a week or so. While we like to think they are all genuine, it’s inevitable that some won’t be. Good practice will help deter the non-genuine ones and make it harder for your staff to pull a sickie. Good practice will also make it easier to identify trends in absences which may help as an early indicator to something more serious or ongoing that your employees may need help with.

In cases of long term absence you also need good management. If poorly managed, you could find yourself in a situation where a member of staff has been away for such a long time you don’t know if you can bring them back, how to bring them back or even if they can come back.

Our best practice recommendations for managing sickness absence are: 

  • A robust absence management policy 
  • Clearly defined staff procedures for calling in sick, self-certification and the submission of GP Fitness to Work Certificates (Fit Notes) 
  • A vigorous recording and monitoring system
  • Health assessments for employees as appropriate to your industry 
  • Back to work interviews following EVERY period of absence 
  • A procedure of maintaining communication with employees on long term sickness absence 
  • A return to work plan to reintroduce employees after long term absence 
  • Clear procedures for dealing with non-genuine absence with defined links to disciplinary procedures
  • Clear procedures for dealing with long-term or repeated absences with defined links to capability procedures and with regard to disability discrimination issues 

If you request that a member of staff not attend work for any reason where that is your choice and not theirs then you should always pay them their full wage. Even if you only usually pay SSP. Most commonly at the moment are queries relating to non-symptomatic Covid cases. This is where the employee feels fine to come into work. However as a duty to all staff you would prefer them to stay at home. Obviously if the employee decides not to attend work for any reason you should pay them in line with your sickness policy. 

If you are struggling to manage your levels of staff sickness, have a particularly often poorly member of staff or have someone on long term absence and are unsure you are doing everything you should be, get in touch and we can help. 

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