FRIDAY HR FAQS – Can an employee take annual leave whilst on long term sick leave?

Understandably an employee who is on long term sick leave and taking their annual holiday might make some employers raise their eyebrows, after all if they are well enough to take annual leave, why can’t they return to work?

Not quite, employees on long term sick leave are entitled to take annual leave and there are a multitude of reasons why an employee might be on long term sick leave from work and this does not impact their ability to use their accrued annual leave.

Some key points to consider:

  • Employees on sick leave continue to accrue holiday in line with the Working Time Directive.
  • If company policy is that holiday cannot be carried over into the following year, it is not lawful to enforce this onto employees on long term absence, they must be entitled to carry it over.
  • Even though employees are entitled to take annual leave, as an employer you are not able to force employees to take it whilst on sick leave nor are you able to tell them that if they don’t use it they will lose it on their return.

As an employer you have a duty of care to your employees so it is important to consider their rights in this situation.  Think about the reasons why they may be taking their annual leave, rather than presuming this is indicative of them being well enough to return to work.

breathehr - outsourced hr - hr revolution

One key reason that employees might want to use some of their accrued leave during their absence is financial necessity. Whilst some employers are able to offer benefits to their employees such as Income Protection or Critical Illness, a large majority, particularly small to medium sized business, are not able to. For this reason and depending on the employer and the length of the absence, they may no longer be on company discretionary sick pay, but on statutory sick pay and beyond the 28 weeks of statutory sick pay, be living on no pay at all. Taking annual leave, which is paid at their usual salary rate, can be a financial necessity at a difficult time.

Other reasons for employees taking leave might be to reduce the amount they have in preparation of a return to work, or they may need to take annual leave for their own well being. Taking annual leave doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going abroad or taking a wild holiday!

As an employer, it can be beneficial for the employee to take some of their accruing annual leave whilst on long term sickness:

  • It can help improve the well being of the employee – financially and psychologically.
  • Allowing leave to be taken during extended periods of absence, will reduce the amount that they will be entitled to when they return to work, which would then therefore reduce them needing to take more time out of the business for holiday.
  • If the employee decided to leave the company, any accrued leave not taken would need to be paid out and depending on the length of the absence, this could be a substantial sum of monies to be paid at one time.
  • Remember, there is no real reason for refusing annual leave and doing so could potentially put an employer under breach of contract (for lack of trust and confidence), as they have no valid reason for declining leave, as they can not claim operational reasons.

Whilst we acknowledge that employers generally want to encourage employees to return to work, they should also support them to improve their well being.

One way to ensure clarity for all parties, is to have comprehensive annual leave and sickness policies, which need to be reviewed regularly to ensure legal compliance.

If you would like further HR advice on handling long term absence get in touch with HR Revolution:+44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

The HR BLOG - hr revolution - outsourced hr

Blue Monday may not be real, but Mental Health issues in your business will be

Ok so if you’re reading this, then you made it through the most depressing day of the year. ‘Blue Monday’ the time when the festivities are well and truly over, we’re back into our daily routine and there feels like there’s not a great deal to look forward to.

It’s also right in the middle of a period when employee absences are likely to be high and this is a challenge that a lot of businesses HR Revolution work with face every year. January is a long month and employees may not be able to face coming into work especially when you add financial woes into the mix. 

Mental health issues often create a pattern of short-term sickness absence, and sufferers often find it easier to face disciplinary action for faking a sickie than to admit they have a mental health issue because of the stigma attached.  Not only does being in trouble make them feel even worse, it also prevents them from getting the support they could get if their managers were aware of the problem.

Whatever your views, mental health isn’t something that can be solely tackled from the top down. Business owners and line managers need to take responsibility and recognise that they play a role in the well-being of their employees.

So whilst you breathe a sigh of relief that the most depressing day of the year is now behind us, it might not be time to look forward to the summer months just yet. Take the time to think about how you can ensure that your employees are happy, productive, and enjoying good mental health.

It has business benefits sure… But it’s also simply the right thing to do.

If you need any further advice or want to chat confidentially about an employee that might need assistance get in touch, call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

HR BLOGGER CTA

Why business owners shouldn’t turn a blind eye to a ‘sickie’

Pulling a sickie is becoming such a norm that there is now a National Sickie Day (it’s the first Monday in February in case you were wondering!). But this is a very unhealthy attitude towards sickness and employers have a vital part to play in preventing it from infecting their teams.

What is a sickie?

We all know that there are some days when your employees will wake up and just want to roll over because they couldn’t think of anything worse than having to be at work. And whilst the majority sip their morning coffee to feel human and fuel themselves for the day ahead, many workers are burying their heads under their duvets, whilst trying to think of a credible excuse regarding their whereabouts to give to their employer.

National Sickie Day

So what is it about that fateful February Monday, that makes it a prime day for calling in sick? Could it be that many are getting over (or still continuing) their drinking binge after partaking in dry January? The findings from the latest Sick Report by breatheHR shows that 21% of workers have pulled a sickie because of a hangover.

Apparently we also need more time in bed during the winter and we’re more likely to get ill, making it the perfect season to feign illness. In a study by The Fine Bedding Company, a staggering 69% of the country’s workforce said they would be tempted to make the most of the national sick day.

Sickies aren’t just for skivers

Whilst there are some that pull a sickie because they are hungover or want to start their weekend early (21% and 14% of respondents respectively), the research showed that nearly half (42%) of those that pulled a sickie did so to rest and another 19% have done so to avoid a stressful situation at work. And it appears that this isn’t happening in isolation, as those that pull a sickie tend to do so on average 3 times a year. All of these reasons for pulling a sickie should be a red flag to an employer and shouldn’t be something that they turn a blind eye to.

What employers can do about sickies

The celebration of a National Sickie Day and high number of employees admitting to feigning illness to get out of work makes it clear that sickies are becoming normalised in the UK’s working culture. In order to minimise the number of sickies in your business there are a few things that you can do, if you haven’t already!

Implement an absence policy

Don’t accept text messages or vague emails as acceptable ways for employees to report sickness. Put in place a process that both you, as an employer, and your employees should adhere to if a case of sickness arises – whether it is true or not. That way everything goes through the same procedure as per your sickness policy and is dealt with in the same way ensuring consistency and support for your staff. Hopefully resulting in a speedy return to work.

Record and measure sickness

There are a number of methods that you can use to record and measure absence. A number of small businesses use spreadsheets and keep a record of any return to work interviews, whereas others use absence management software to keep track of the absence data relating to their businesses. The important thing is to ensure that you are measuring and recording absence effectively so that you can pick up any trends to identify any recurring absences and help your staff with any potential issues they are having.

Engage your team

If your team is uninspired and unengaged, then it is likely they’ll find reasons not to come into work, so focus on ensuring your team stays engaged.  Make sure that employees enjoy their work, respect and support each other, and get acknowledgement, training and support.  Most importantly is that work/life balance is kept under control and if someone works late or over a weekend, they are given off days in lieu. In return you get employees who want to come to work, who want to be part of the business and who are fully engaged.

Open up communication

It is worrying to see that 19% of respondents have pulled a sickie in order to avoid a stressful situation at work. Communication is a key part of business success and you need to foster an environment where open communication is accepted. This number is easily preventable and it could be lowered if small businesses opened up clear lines of communication for their employees to be able to discuss situations.

Lead by example

Our plugged in, always on culture is leaving everyone in a bit of a conundrum on where the line is between work and life, if such a thing exists. Half of business owners questioned admitted that they have contacted an employee whilst on sick leave. Therefore, if you can set out your expectations for your workers when it comes to appropriate times to be working (whilst on sick leave shouldn’t be one of them), and adhere to them, it is likely that they will follow suit.

You’ll be lucky to completely stop sickies taking place in your company and they are certainly not something that you should ignore, but introducing a stricter policy for reporting sickness and communicating your expectations would be a good place to start.

HR Revolution – www.hrrevolution.co.uk

 

How SME owners can prevent an always on culture

Small businesses are the powerhouse of the UK economy, employing 15.7 million people and accounting for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the end of 2016. So what can small business owners do, if anything, to prevent this always on culture from manifesting and resulting in an absence epidemic as research findings predict?

We’re all trying to keep up

Wendy Read, Founder and Managing Director of HR revolution, an HR consultancy with the mission to revolutionise the way in which businesses work with HR, says that in her experience many business owners have an open attitude to absence. “A lot of business owners expect to be able to see if there is a problem and hope that their employees will let them know when they are feeling stressed or in need of down-time, but in reality many working environments are so fast-paced, highly-energised and driven to succeed that anyone not on the treadmill gets left out of the loop quickly.”

She goes on to say that, “a standard working week is no longer Monday to Friday it can be 24/7, we all have mobile devices that keep us in the loop whenever we request and a culture that means we want to be included and up to speed constantly updating our apps and email to see what’s going on. Downtime is often still ‘online’ so there is still no real separation angle. This does then tend to lead to a mentality where we are always on. If this is not managed properly it can lead to many more stress related absences and longer-term workforce management issues.”

Business owners want action

Wendy believes that it’s tough for business owners to change this mentality. ”They want action,” she says. “If someone is thriving on working long hours to deliver and over achieving, why should that be a bad thing? The employee wants to develop and build their skills; the business gets the input and ultimately the success rates rise. As a business owner myself I get it, I can really see why many of my peers will always ask, ‘What’s the issue?’”

However, the issue is that, according to breatheHR’s sick report, not only do one in three business owners think it’s fair game to contact staff whilst they are on holiday, over half (51%) of business owners contacted staff whilst they were on sick leave. The source of their persistence is clear with 85% of business owners admitting that staff absences have an economic impact on their business. This is leading to more than half of employees (54%) not taking their full annual leave entitlement and feeling pressured to continue working despite being on paid leave, with 52% responding to work emails whilst on annual or sick leave.

Setting a good example

Spin the situation round and we see it really is truly a short-sighted vision for your workforce and not a positive example to set. Business owners don’t take holiday themselves (on average business owners have taken 18 days annual leave in the last 12 months) and they contact employees whilst they are on holiday which in turn leads to employees calling in sick to have rest, but not succeeding. It’s a vicious circle that businesses are increasingly becoming caught up in.

“Short-term it leads to stress, anxiety and lack of sleep, which then potentially leads to workforces that don’t take their full holiday, fearful they may miss out or lose work. This is likely to result in more time out with stress and ultimately burn out. This is not a sustainable solution and makes for a stressed-out unhappy workforce that means ultimately your business will lose them through absence, resignation or burn-out” warns Wendy.

She goes on to advise that helping to change this mentality has to come from the top and that business owners, managers and mentors have to embed a sense of achievement and success, alongside the ability to be able to take some time out. “We almost have to start retraining our workforces to encourage downtime to allow true focus when employees are working and switch off when they are not. Always working; actively monitoring emails, apps and web traffic is not a healthy way of working. There are many ‘switch off and slow down’ policies that are starting to work their way into the workplace, but many of these still aren’t taken seriously.”

How you can prevent an ‘always on’ culture

It’s clear that this always on culture isn’t manifesting itself in a positive way for employees. What can begin as a refreshing thirst for drive could soon lead to burnout. But how can you redefine your workplace culture? Here is what Wendy thinks you should do to prevent this from happening because it’s not as simple as rolling out a policy.

“Rolling out a policy and hoping that resolves things won’t work. I believe it’s about setting an example, providing support, and training staff to explain why switching off and taking your holidays is important; for wellbeing, for longevity and for business success. This isn’t just the case for employees. As a business owner or manager you need to lead by example. It’s so important that you have down-time and are fresh and energised, as you are responsible for the development and support of not only yourself, but also your business and your workforce.”

Making sure your workforce has a way of raising any issues that enables them to seek support when they really need it is as important and is how you can ensure you get to the root of the problem. Here are some of the ways you can make this happen in your workplace:

  1. Set up great management, mentoring and support functions. Employees need someone they can turn to.
  2. Utilise an Employee Assistance Programme
  3. Research more holistic solutions such as massage or relaxation programmes like yoga. Chill out areas are built as standard to many office environments as its important to have somewhere that employees can get away from work.
  4. HR support for allocation and usage of holiday time to ensure employees are fully supported in scheduling time out of the office.
  5. Return to work support for those that are absent due to stress or illness.
  6. Wellness training in-house to help support your team’s development
  7. For the more serious levels of support many workplaces offer counselling support through their medical or EA programmes that can help directly with specific issues.

Join Wendy for this webinar to see how you can implement these ideas in your small business to prevent your staff from taking sickies.

Conclusions

Fostering an always on culture is causing an absence epidemic. Whilst business owners reap the rewards from an engaged and driven workforce they are subsequently not considering the long-term effects this has on their employees. Small businesses are thinking about their people too late, and are being hit in the bottom line because of it. Through setting a good example, encouraging communication early on and supporting their staff this can all be prevented.

HR Revolution – www.hrrevolution.co.uk

5 ways of dealing with sickness and absence in the workplace

Ok so employees’ being sick is a fact of life in the workplace, but what happens when it becomes a problem and what are measures you can take as an employer to stop it becoming unmanageable.

We have listed below 5 ways which will help you deal with it effectively:-

  1. Promote attendance

Why not praise and reward employees that don’t take time off.   Obviously you don’t want people to feel they are doing something wrong if they are genuinely ill, but an incentive like this could encourage a more positive mindset about attendance.

2. Have a strict sickness policy

Don’t take a casual approach to people calling in sick, you don’t want to give the impression you are not that bothered and encourage employees to take days off sick. A policy which names a member of staff/HR Department who must be informed before 9.15 am by telephone on the day of absence for example, would make those that are fabricating their illness think twice.

3. Follow up absences

After a period of absence don’t let an employee slip back to work as if nothing has happened. Make it policy for them to have a meeting with their manager/HR Department to provide a clear explanation and any relevant proof of their illness, such as a doctor’s note. This is also an opportunity to identify any root causes in the workplace that you may be able to deal with.

4. Be flexible about working hours

Some people just aren’t up to working at 9 a.m. Others wake up some days unwilling to face eight hours in front of the screen. Would it be impossible for your business to operate if you let employees decide their own hours? It’s amazing what a difference it can have on absence.

5. Encourage employees to adopt a self-employed mentality

It’s not really a coincidence that self employed workers rarely have a day off sick. They take complete responsibility for what they do, so they are motivated to do a good job.  Try to create some of that self-employed ethos in your workplace. Give employees control over their own work so they really want to be there to do it. As well as decreasing absenteeism this will create a positive can-do atmosphere in the workplace.

If you have any issues with sickness and absence and need some guidance, give HR Revolution a call + 44 203 538 5311 or email: info@hrrevolution.co.uk, we can help.

HR Revolution – www.hrrevolution.co.uk

10 of the best “i’m sick” excuses…

Do you remember the time last year,  when you had to call in sick because a swarm of bees were surrounding your car and you couldn’t get in it to get to work… No.. didn’t think so?

However, someone does, believe it or not that is a real excuse that was given by an employee to her manager to explain her not turning up to work, according to a survey carried out by Career Builder and this is just one of the many outrageous excuses that popped up.

Did you know that over 30% of workers have called in sick when they were actually well… Be warned though, there are quite a high number of employers that do actually check up to see if it is legitimate and some of these excuses might not cut the mustard…

In order of popularity:

  • They just didn’t feel like going to work.
  • They simply need to relax (personally I relax more at work than I do with 3 kids running round!).
  • They had a doctor’s appointment (ok, my doctor is always running late, but not by a whole day!).
  • They needed to catch up on some sleep (poor little lambs).
  • They have a few personal errands that need running (could you drop off my dry cleaning whilst skiving!).

They seem a bit lame don’t they and as an employer/employee I’m sure you’ve heard them all, but have you heard some of these “real” beauties…

I’m too drunk to drive.

I got arrested!?!

My friend is on annual leave so I can’t get a lift.

It’s my dog’s birthday and I need to arrange a party for him.

And HR Revolution’s favourite excuse to call in sick…

An employee said that someone had glued all her doors and windows shut and she couldn’t leave the house!

These are all genuine – honest – please do let us know if you have any more weird and wonderful excuses, we’d love to hear them.

All jokes aside though, as an employer you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence and if an excuse seems a bit too far-fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate.

HR Revolution can help, download our FREE guide to dealing with sickness and absence in the workplace HERE.

Outsourced HRHR Documents | Talent Solutions

HR Revolution HR Documents

Visit HR Revolution’s document shop, for all your HR document needs