Are absent employees making you sick?
- Please, Miss, I need to go...
- Dismissal of poor performers
- To pay or not to pay?
- Sex and religion!
- Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
- Breaking up is hard to do
- Off sick, and working for somebody else!
- Square Peg, Round Hole?
- Conflict in the workplace
Dealing with sickness absence is difficult and requires common sense, communication, and thorough preparation. There are no quick fixes, but the right approach can get results.
Short term absences
Persistent short term absence may actually be misconduct rather than sickness. Check for patterns: Mondays and Fridays are popular days for malingering. Use your disciplinary procedures if you are confident the person is not really sick, or they have failed to comply with notification procedures.
GPs' notes are not the last word on the matter. Ask for a medical report to find out more. You will need the person's consent for this. Or arrange a visit to the Occupational Health doctor for an unbiased expert opinion.
Some people do have a weak constitution; why not provide information to help them improve their health, and create a win-win situation?
Long term absence
Faced with a long-term absentee, don't jump to conclusions and rush headlong towards dismissal. Gather the facts, look at their records. Is there an underlying problem? You will need medical evidence before deciding what to do. Can you insist on a medical examination under the terms of their contract? If so, make use of that right.
Crucially, find out whether their condition may be a Disability; if it is, you will have to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate their return to work.
Don't be afraid to talk to the person; even while they are away you can gently inquire how they are feeling and whether any treatment is helping. Show you care, and that they are missed. Communication is key; the longer somebody is away the harder it will be to come back. Pave the way, explore the option of a gradual return to work. See what their doctor thinks.
If the medical evidence shows they will be off for a long or indefinite period, meet with them and see whether you can agree an amicable departure. It may take the pressure off them if they are not worried about having to come back to work.
Whatever action you take, remember to be fair and consistent.
For a fuller version of this article, see my blog on www.mthorneconsulting.co.uk, or call me on 01372 700139 for advice.