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Fit for Work: Managing Sickness Absence

Sickness Absence

Winter months are hard to manage and the rise in sickness absence is almost inevitable with viruses, bad weather, traffic delays and even winter blues. For SMEs this can cause large scale disruption to their services for what is often a busy period, so are you comfortable with your sickness absence management procedures? This week’s article gives you some legislative food-for-thought on how to manage sickness absence within your company and what kind of best practices you may want to implement.

Short Term Sickness Absence

Short term sickness absence can be anything from half a day to 3 weeks. This is the most common type of employee absence and you are likely to encounter it throughout the year, especially so in the winter months.

Get organised and develop your policies and procedures, ACAS recommends the following:

  • The employee should notify their manager as soon as possible (before the start of their shift). You, as the employer, should be made aware of the nature of the illness and a likely return date.
  • A self-certificate from the employee if the illness lasts under 1 week – this is kind of like a back to work form to complete upon their return
  • A note from the employee’s GP (a Fit Note) if the employee is ill longer than 7 days

Implement these steps for every employee and ensure consistency and fairness throughout the year.

Long Term Sickness Absence

Long term sickness absence is described as for leave for a period of 4 weeks or longer. This can be very challenging for an employer due to the stress of being a person down and having to cover their work. But it can also be stressful for the employee too and long stretches of absence can be detrimental not only for their physical well-being but their mental and social health too.

So, what best practices can you use in this scenario?

  • Regularly communicate with the absent employee and provide support as best you can to try to facilitate their return to work
  • Utilise the Fit for Work scheme which provides free health and work advice as well as free referrals to an occupational health assessment
  • Contemplate a return to work plan – The aim of sickness leave strategy is to get the employee back to work as soon as possible, as such you may be required to accommodate them during a period of adjustment. This could entail flexible working or do less stressful work than usual in the interim for example.

By instilling these practices within your organisation you are showing that you are willing to act fairly and reasonably in an employee’s absence. Whilst this blog does not contain any legal advice, there are some great resources you can consult if you need further information, as a starting point we’d recommend the government’s site.

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