How to manage sick leave according to an employment solicitor

Published on November 3, 2015 by Toby Pochron
    HR · HR software

Employment solicitor Toby Pochron explains his top tips for managing sickness absence.

At times, sick leave can seem like an insurmountable problem for some businesses; but you do not need to feel out of control.

Instead, by putting in place a few clear rules for managing sick leave, you can keep a strong handle on the situation. Not only will this approach help you minimise spurious absence, it will also give you an accurate view of the true impact of sickness on your business.

Below, I look at three key areas that should help you take the stress out of absence management:

1. Consider your measurements

It is important for a business to measure and understand absence data so this can be used to assess when persistent non-attendance is having a detrimental impact on trading. As a result, setting out a formula for how the business will measure absence is an important first step to take.

Not only does measuring absence allow you to manage frequently absent employees more proactively, it creates a level playing field for all staff and ensures that a consistent and fair approach is adopted throughout.

Related article: How to calculate a sickness absence percentage for employees

2. Consider your triggers

Absence management is about awareness of the impact that unscheduled leave has on your business. Businesses should use this information to set a reasonable tolerance for the amount of absence an employee can take before a formal process is engaged.

Setting this type of ‘trigger’ will allow the business to reduce the overall impact of absence by keeping a level of control of what is, and is not, acceptable.

The trigger should always be geared towards recognising that ad hoc ‘duvet days’ (unreasonable absence used to lengthen the weekend or holiday time) have a more negative impact on the business than long term genuine sick leave.

Related article: What is the Bradford Factor?

3. Consider your stick and carrots

Effectively managing absence can be a balance between carrot and stick. The ‘stick’ of the formal management process should be used proportionately to challenge persistent unwarranted absence as early as possible.

In addition to this, businesses can consider rewards for good attendance to incentivise low absence levels. These ‘carrots’ work best when they are used as a range of measures and are careful not to penalise disability-related absences or discourage employees from taking genuine sick leave.

Related article: Presenteeism in the workplace: how can you address it?

Underpin your proactive approach to sick leave

Whilst all of the above considerations are important, taking a professional and proactive approach to sick leave is impossible if you do not have the systems in place to ensure you stay on top of the situation.

Good HR software should help you do this by enabling you to gather and analyse data on sickness absence for individual employees, departments and the business as a whole. It can also help you keep employees aware of the fact that their ongoing repeated absence is being noted and monitored.

For example, you can use software to send your staff alert messages for return to work meetings. What is more, it can also keep a full record of absence history on the employee’s personal file for them to access and view at any time.

Some absence management software also gives you the option to transfer the onus to the employee for uploading sick notes and reasons for absence, something that can be useful at a later date if they make a discrimination claim based on their absence.

Find out how absence management software helps businesses keep track of employee sickness absences with the information and documentation they need

Picture of Toby Pochron

Written by Toby Pochron

Toby Pochron is a Senior Associate in the Freeths LLP Employment Law department. He was a Partner in the Employment Law department of Ironmonger Curtis.

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