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.

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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.

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The worst excuses for absence…

Did any of your employees call in sick yesterday?

It was Monday after all, meaning a few employees may have overindulged on the sunny weekend, then perhaps feigned a summer cough or cold!! This is not unheard of, but there are some excuses which are so excessive and exaggerated that you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it.

Here are five of the worst excuses for absences that we have heard!!

1. My only pair of work trousers are in the wash.

2. I stayed out too late partying last night and haven’t had any sleep

3. I got arrested.

4. I’m too drunk to drive.

5. I have no way to get to work.

 

According to research Desk.co.uk, who asked 2,088 employees before the last Bank Holiday weekend if they would consider telling a few “white lies” to avoid a day at work.  Of those questioned 27% said they were hoping to sneak an extra day off!

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As an employer you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence; if an excuse seems too far fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate.  If you notice a pattern emerging then you should speak to the employee about their poor attendance and take proactive steps to action it.

The view of HR professionals, prevention is nearly always better than cure when dealing with sickness and absence.

Here are our tops tips to consider if you have a “sickie” culture in your business.

Offer working from home options – Maybe an employee has used a sick day to care for a child during the school holidays? If you offered the chance to work from home, employees could still get on with their job while keeping an eye on child, this also allows employees to avoid a hot, sweaty commute which might be putting them off coming in.

Offer ‘duvet days’ as a work benefit – This is a day an employee can take holiday without giving notice in advance.  This can help boost productivity, as employees feel respected and it helps to build trust as employees don’t have to pretend to be sick when they really just need a day off.  These are of course built into a company’s holiday allowance.

Reduce work stresses – Find out why people might want to take a day off from the office.  Are they overwhelmed with work? Is the office a comfortable place to get things done? If you can reduce the stress of working then chances are your employees won’t feel the need to escape once in a while.

If you would like any practical help or guidance on anything outlined above, please get in touch: +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.

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National Sickie Day 2018

I hope you are not tempted to call in sick today… but if you do, you’re not alone! The first Monday in February is when more people call in sick than any other day in the year.

Today’s figure is predicted to be higher than in previous years thanks to a combination of factors including Super Bowl Sunday yesterday, the first weekend after Dry January and the first post-Christmas pay day.

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According to some Employment Law experts, it was estimated that the amount of employees who called in sick on 2017 National Sickie Day was 350,000 and they predicted this cost the UK economy around £45million due to lost hours, wages and overtime, but overall 39 million working days a year are lost due too sickies, costing UK businesses a staggering £4billion.

So here are a list of some of the worst excuses for missing work in 2017:

  • My only pair of work trousers is in the wash
  • I contracted food poisoning from a chocolate bar I ate last night
  • It’s my dog’s birthday and I need to arrange a party for him
  • The dog ate my shoes
  • I got arrested
  • I woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it
  • I stayed out partying last night and haven’t had any sleep
  • My friend is on annual leave so I can’t get a lift
  • I have no way to get to work
  • My wife earns more than me so I have to look after the kids

As an employer there are a few things you can do to try and limit this trend by making sure you get employees to call you when they are sick – it’s harder to stick to a made up excuse talking to someone than texting in. Also you are perfectly entitled to challenge the authenticity of an absence; if an excuse seems too far-fetched then ask for evidence if appropriate.

Don’t allow an ‘absence culture’ to flourish in your workplace, get in touch if you need any further advice on how to improve sickness and absence, 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.

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Time to talk day… #timetotalk

Today is Time to talk day, a charity run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health.

What many people don’t realise is that Mental Health falls under the category of disability and if people who have mental health problems are treated unfavourably because of their condition this is discrimination and, if you experience it, you may have a legal right to challenge it.

So mental health is an issue your business can no longer afford to ignore:

  • Almost one in three people have experienced mental health issues whilst in employment
  • Mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year
  • 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason

Tackling stigma (where an employee is perceived as being different because of their mental health problem) and discrimination and developing a culture where your employees feel able to talk openly about their mental health problems should be the number one priority within your business.

It is important as an employer you are aware of your obligations to your employees to protect them from discrimination.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is the law that gives employees the right to challenge discrimination. It protects people from being discriminated against because of certain protected characteristics, such as gender, age or disability and mental health.

Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force, it is unlawful for employers to ask questions about health during recruitment.

It is up to the candidate whether they wish to disclose their mental health problem or not. An employer has a duty to ensure that if the candidate does disclose, they are not discriminated against and are treated fairly.

CIPD make some recommendations for employers:

  • Distinguish carefully between essential and desirable requirements for the job to allow for flexibility in making adjustments.
  • Communicate your commitment to equal opportunities and how your organisation values staff mental health.
  • State that reasonable adjustments are available
  • Any information on health or disabilities should be kept separate from the job application form

Reasonable Adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 also puts employers under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments (in other words changes).

A few examples of changes that might help

  • Extending flexible working policies to allow commuting outside of rush hours
  • Allowing staff to take time off work for appointments
  • Making changes to their working area
  • Allowing staff to work at home on occasion if this is helpful
  • Temporarily re-allocating tasks they find stressful and difficult

As an employer you have a key role to play in supporting employees to maintain their mental wellbeing. Regular supervision or catch-up meetings can help managers recognise symptoms such as stress, anxiety, paranoia or depression. It is also worth incorporating time in your meetings to discuss your employees’ wellbeing. Managers play a crucial role in setting reasonable adjustments, flexible working allowances and return to work plans if employees need additional support.

Ideally, speaking about mental health problems should be an intrinsic part of the culture of your workplace.

It’s critical that all of your line managers feel confident having a conversation about mental health with their line reports. Increasing their capability to spot signs and symptoms in their team, and feel confident in discussing this with those who are struggling will help stop problems before they become more challenging.

If you need any further advice or guidance or would like to discuss how you can tackle any Mental Health issues within your business from an HR perspective give us a 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.

It’s time to talk and HR Revolution are here to support you, your employees AND your business.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Friday fun… Check out these silly “sick-note” excuses!     

Do you remember the time a few months ago,  when you had to call in sick because a swarm of bees was 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, 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…. But be warned, there are 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 Managers I’m sure you’ve heard them all, but have you heard some of these “real” little beauties….

The employee was giving up smoking and so was too grumpy to work.

The employee had bitten her tongue and couldn’t talk.

The employee’s false teeth had flown out of the window while driving.

The employee simply couldn’t decide what to wear.

And my favourite…

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

What do you think… real or not??

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When is it OK to call in sick?

When companies are working as hard as they are, often with fewer employees, you can understand why they struggle when employees call in sick, but are there occasions when we should be saying, don’t come into the office.

Mondays in particular are hard to sympathise with people.   When the phone rings and an employee has a croaky voice saying, ‘Sorry I’ve got a tummy bug’… really!  You can’t help but think, heavy weekend?  OK, maybe that’s just plain cynical… but in many cases it is more productive for an employee to take a day off work to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come in, with reduced productivity and the potential to spread their illness to colleagues.

Sometimes, showing a little more sympathy and flexibility when employees are unwell is necessary and can help maintain a healthy and committed workforce.

Here are some examples of when it is an acceptable reason to stay away:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sick-bug
  • Flu

Always advise your staff to consult with their doctor at the earliest opportunity and keep you informed of any updates, especially if there is an extended absence from work.

If you need any guidance, download our FREE guide to sickness and absence here…

 

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