Summer Holidays and the Infamous Sickie!

Guest Written by Karen Falconer, HR Knowledge Manager, HR Solutions

Alongside the many events across summer 2018 that have lifted our spirits and an unusually sunny British summer, taking time off work has become much more attractive for people. 

If you are a manager or team leader, here are some potentially useful ways to head off the infamous sick day, manage increased requests for time off, and look at how you can effectively rally up staff who may want to be anywhere but at work.

Get your game plan sorted.

Watching the match at work

If people are going to be sneaking peeks on their phones, making more trips “to the loo” or even calling in sick so they can keep up with match scores, you could concede to facilitating it being watched at work so that you can regulate this in a way which you think is appropriate.

  •  If you have TVs in your office, consider putting the games on, even if this is with the sound off. This may make those ‘unexpected coughs and colds’ suddenly feel a little bit better and could even make the environment have a little more camaraderie!
  • Or if there is a lot of interest, why not really go for it?! Set up a room to show the game, get lunch or snacks in and make a bit of an event of it!
  • Decide whether people would be allowed to watch the whole thing, have a longer break, can watch it at their desks or listen to it on their phones, etc.

You need to know yourself what is and is not going to be considered acceptable and then you need to let your staff know what the ground rules are, in advance.

Sending round a clear e-mail gives everyone the same message and a point of reference. It’s also your evidence to prove to anyone taking advantage that they should have known better!

Temporary Flexibility

Maintaining productivity whilst accommodating staff with temporary flexibility in their working hours, is often more achievable than you may think. Flexibility is regularly proven to elicit higher productivity, commitment and engagement – which all help the business’ bottom line.

Swapping shifts and re-arranging hours.

If someone couldn’t get their holiday approved, consider whether shifts can be re-arranged or swapped, whether you can condense working hours (making sure they are getting breaks!) or even change lunch breaks around.

Late starts and early finishes

Consider whether you can offer an earlier finish time on match days for those who want to make an evening of it, or a later start time the following morning, for those who might be nursing a sore head!

When considering how much flexibility to offer, you may give a quota to everyone or you may invite those who are interested to request it. Regarding the terms, you just need to be consistent. The time off could be unpaid, or you could say the time must be worked back on another day at an agreed time. If you do go for something like this, remember to invite all staff to put a request in. Give everyone the same opportunities but do give yourself discretion to be able to refuse requests in case you are inundated.

Managing holidays fairly

If you think that many of your staff will be booking time off it is important to have clear and fairapproach with managing holidays. You may consider temporarily relaxing some of the rules you have in place, such as; reducing the amount of notice you usually ask for or allowing more staff to be off at the same time than you usually would.

The more you can meet people half way, the more staff will appreciate your nod to a work life balance, they may go the extra mile for you in return some time and you may even improve morale.

Help them help you:

  • Tell them now what your methods are (or will be over this period) for requesting and approving holiday.
  • Make it clear they need to wait for your approval, before assuming they are allowed the time off!
  • Advise them to get in any holiday requests they want to make sooner rather than later, to increase the likelihood of it being approved.

This should help you to try and plan cover effectively in relation to any other business needs, or even to reshuffle things so you can allow one or two additional people to have time off if there is a high demand.

The sooner you know the situation, the better position you will be in to manage the expectations of both your staff and your clients. It may also reduce any last minute ‘sickies’ from anyone who forgot to ask for the time off!

Try to be fair in the way that you approve or decline requests and make justifiable decisions in case you are challenged by anyone who is upset they didn’t get the time off approved.

The infamous sickie

For this part, we discuss what to do if you suspect that the sickness is not genuine, or it is self-induced having had too much of a good time the day before!

If someone lets you know they aren’t coming into work, then the same day (and immediately where possible) the line manager should contact the individual. This should ideally be on a phone call, the better for getting the truth.

Remember that where your employees may call in sick to report their absence, if you have doubts whether this is genuine or is really so bad that they cannot work, it is fair to ask questions:

Ask them what is wrong and when it came on? It may be reasonable to ask them to consider coming in to work to see how they get on.

  • Ask them if they can do anything to alleviate it? Often false sickies use ailments such as headaches, migraines, flu, sickness and stomach bugs. Provided you don’t work with food or this is not part of a known long-term condition, then as above, it may be reasonable to ask them to try coming in to work to see how they get on.
  • Ask them if they have ever had it before? If so, how did it affect them back then and how long did it last for? This may help to identify if the problem is a reoccurring health condition and may also give you an indication of when you can expect them back.

Not that, if you suspect that the sickness is an outright lie and if they would get sick pay, this could possibly be fraudulence – especially if statutory sick pay accrues!

If someone really is incapacitated, and although you think it is because of time off to watch sport, you shouldn’t force them to come in if they are unwell. However, you may be well justified in holding a return to work meeting on their next day back. Depending on what they say, this may develop into an investigation meeting about having not taken reasonable steps to ensure they would be fit for work! This could result in a documented discussion, a letter of concern, or it could go further (if you think it is appropriate and consistent).

AWOL – no reasonable explanation

Call them, leave a voicemail, call again later and then try their next of kin. Treat any sports fans who are AWOL as you would anyone else. You should assume there is a genuine reason why they have not turned up (in case there has been an emergency or something similar). You always need to be consistent, but in many businesses, being AWOL is totally unacceptable conduct and warrants starting disciplinary action.

If they call you back (and there is no fair reason for the absence) tell them to get in to work! If they think they are unfit to work because they have stayed up too late or are hungover etc., this is also unacceptable conduct. Sunday might have been their own personal time, but as above, they have a duty to ensure they are fit for work the next day!

They are at work – but they aren’t working!

If staff are stood around talking about sports, manage it in the same way you would if they were stood around talking about ‘Love Island’. Nip it in the bud by simply asking staff to keep their in-depth match analysis to breaks or before and after work.

If this keeps getting ignored, step it up a gear and sit them down for a private conversation about why they don’t think they have to do what you ask of them!

Managing Long-Term Sickness Absence

In our webinar recording, which you can watch on demand, we looked at managing long-term sickness absence. When you are managing long-term sickness absence at what point do you have to make the decision that the employee is potentially unfit to return?  This is a very delicate area to manage and you can’t get it wrong as it could be very detrimental and costly to your business if you do get it wrong. 

What information do you need to consider? 

Watch the webinar recording to find out more:

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