Prevention is nearly always better than cure on National Sickie Day

Date: Monday, 3rd February, 2020

Tempted to call in sick today?  You’re not alone, as today (Monday 3 February) is traditionally the day when most people are likely to ‘pull a sickie’.

Known as ‘National Sickie Day’, the first Monday in February is deemed the most popular day of the year to call in sick and typically, we’ll probably be blaming colds or the flu when we contact our bosses!

However, according to a recent survey, a quarter of February’s interviews will take place today often  because people re-evaluate their life after Christmas and have then spent January planning any new career changes.

According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018, the equivalent to 4.4 days per worker. The most common reasons for sickness absence in 2018 were minor illnesses (including coughs and colds), musculoskeletal problems (including back pain and neck and upper limb problems) and mental health conditions (including stress, depression and anxiety).

In fact, statistics show that it is actually November which is the worst month overall for unplanned absence, with an average of 88 days per month taken off unexpectedly (excluding weekends), as opposed to the months of January and February, when 77 days and 76 days were taken respectively, and when Blue Monday and National Sickie Day occur.

As an employer you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence; if an excuse seems too far-fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate.  If you notice a pattern emerging then you should speak to the employee about their poor attendance and take proactive steps to action it.

The view of HR professionals, prevention is nearly always better than cure when dealing with sickness and absence.

Here are our tops tips to consider if you have a “sickie” culture in your business.

  • Clearly outline your expectations

If you don’t already have an sickness absence policy, then this needs to be a KEY priority. Remember you can’t expect staff to follow your guidelines, if they don’t even exist! A good policy will outline arrangements for calling in sick, identify trigger points that indicate that absence has reached an unacceptable level, and will be clearly communicated to all staff.

Of course, your policy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t become part of the way you do business on a daily basis. Line managers need to be confident with putting it into action, and it’s vital that the rules are applied to everyone. If you have employees with a disability, then there will be extra considerations that need to be made.

  • Offer working from home options

Maybe an employee has used a sick day to care for a child during the school holidays? If you offered the chance to work from home, employees could potentially still get on with their job while keeping an eye on child, plus discussing flexible working with an employee who might otherwise call in sick lends itself to a positive company culture. It can promote a good work-life balance for employees and recognises that individuals have different needs both inside and outside work.

  • Reduce work stresses

Find out why people might want to take a day off from the office.  Are they overwhelmed with work? Is the office a comfortable place to get things done? If you can reduce the stress of working then chances are your employees won’t feel the need to escape once in a while.

  • Think about how you can make reasonable adjustments to get employees back into their roles

Coming back to work after a period of absence can be daunting. What can you do to make the process more manageable? It might be the case that you can slightly alter roles and responsibilities to encourage long-term absentees to come back to their jobs and ease themselves back into routine.

In practical terms, you could agree shorter working hours for the first couple of weeks, or ensure that the employee has a reduced workload. However, if you are unsure, talking to the individual in question may help establish a way forward that will assist them.

Don’t allow an ‘absence culture’ to flourish in your workplace, get in touch if you need any further advice on how to improve sickness and absence, call us on +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk

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