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.

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.

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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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