Sickness and Absence

Everyone gets sick sometimes, but sickness and absence can really hurt a small business. And most managers at small businesses and charities don’t know they are supposed to deal with sickness. It is important to treat people fairly and in compliance with the law.

Short-term absence

In small businesses short-term absence can be a real hassle, sometimes meaning you need to get last minute cover for a role or adding extra stress and pressure on the staff that are not off sick. It is therefore important to manage it effectively to minimise disruption;

  • Be clear about how absence will be managed, let staff know how to notify you of absence properly, keep records and have a set level that you consider is unacceptable – so that you treat everyone the same when they reach that limit
  • Conduct return to work interviews, taking notes for your records, to help staff realise that their absence has been noted
  • If someone reaches an unacceptable level of sickness absence, review the absences with them, highlight your concerns and think about starting formal attendance management procedures
  • Make reasonable adjustments to help those with chronic conditions improve their attendance
  • Never question whether an absence is genuine without pretty solid evidence; very few employers are medical experts and it is best to avoid this minefield
  • Use a Sickness Absence Policy to manage attendance issues, and avoid using a standard Disciplinary Policy

Long term absence

Long-term absence can be particularly damaging to both the employee concerned and the employer. But immediately starting a formal absence management procedure against someone who doesn’t come into work for a long time is rarely appropriate.

Instead, when managing long-term absence, we suggest you follow these basic steps:

  • Communicate with the employee when they are off, once before the four week mark, and regularly after that
  • Seek medical evidence such as a doctor’s note
  • After four weeks you may start thinking about formal proceedings, and if necessary invite them in for a meeting after six weeks
  • Try and meet at regular intervals after that, and gather more information on their condition and the likelihood of returning to work. You would normally seek this information directly from your employee’s GP or an occupational health service
  • If after various meetings, seeking medical advice and considering reasonable adjustments that you could make, you are still unable to foresee an imminent return to work then you can undertake a final review to consider whether you need to end your member of staff’s employment as a result of ill health

How we can help

With citrusHR’s HR support service, we help you to manage sickness and absence in the right way. The specific help we can provide includes:

  • Practical advice for your situation from our qualified HR consultants over the phone
  • A full set of legally compliant HR documents including a Sickness and Absence policy made available to all your staff
  • Accurate records of all absences due to sickness, and reports with easy access to the information from our simple web-based HR software
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