Thursday, 16 January 2014

How employees ‘pulling a sickie’ are damaging your business’s health

The first Monday in February has now become ‘National Sickie Day’, the day when, traditionally, statistics have shown the largest number of workers call in sick. Reasons can be attributed to the winter cold and flu season, post-Christmas blues, bad weather or the long length of time until the next public holiday – or even these ridiculous excuses. Although this whimsical term makes it seem like a harmless event, how does it affect the industry?

Managing Absence in the workplace
National Sickie Day

Whatever reason a worker gives for not coming into work, managers must be able to distinguish between those with legitimate ill-health and those who have decided to ‘pull a sickie’. This is increasingly becoming a problem, especially in large businesses where some feel they can get away with it. According to a study conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), over a fifth of employers perceived that some of their workforce felt entitled to paid days off ‘sick’ as an additional perk to increase their annual leave.1

In 2013, after a slight dip in reported cases, the proportion of non-genuine illness as a reason for not attending work has increased to around 26% 2, so the need to be able to manage employees’ absences fairly and consistently is a key skill to master.

Left unchecked, absenteeism can cause damage to an organisation. This includes reduced team morale where they have been let down by a colleague, it costs the business money in terms of lost productivity, potentially lower quality work produced due to increased workload or a skills gap of the covering employee, and drains management time as they must reorganise work and discipline the errant worker.

Of course on the opposite side of the coin is ‘presenteeism’ where workers will soldier on even in the face of illness, so as not to lag behind in their work or there is a culture where certain individuals are afraid to be off sick. This can be just as damaging to productivity as workers are there “in body but not in spirit.3

In order to address these issues, a manager must be confident and well-informed of the courses of action available, as well as relevant legislation in place to help them.  Absenteeism must be addressed as soon as possible, and measures should be put in place to prevent it from becoming a problem. However, this can easily be achieved with some knowledge and by following the correct guidelines. For example, by setting up an absence management policy in the workplace, managers will be able to monitor and reduce absence and let employees know what is expected of them. Steps such as conducting return to work interviews will allow for a discussion of the cause of absence (acting as a deterrent but also as a form of support), as well as creating an environment to uncover any underlying issues which can then be dealt with in the early stages. With correct procedures in place, a manager can go a long way towards maintaining a happy workforce without damage to morale or bottom lines.

Capita Learning & Development offers a training course in Absence Management, which will help you develop and manage your workforce, reducing unplanned absences and increasing productivity.

[1] CBI, ‘Fit for purpose’ Absence and workplace health survey 2013, p13
[2] CIPD and Simply Health Limited 2013, Annual Report 2013, p20

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