HR GUIDE | How can Employers manage Absenteeism and Presenteeism

The first Monday in February is known as ‘National Sickie Day’.

This is because it’s normally the day that the highest number of workers call in sick, costing employers in wages, overtime and lost productivity.

During the winter months, many of your employees will suffer from colds, coughs and flu. You may have those who despite feeling quite sick and needing time to rest, still come into work and others who take advantage of the season and fake illness to have some time off work.

Both situations present different challenges for employers and managers but are equally problematic.

Absenteeism

Repeated short-term absences can cause major headaches for organisations, so here are some key steps to take:

Monitor absences
By keeping a record of all absences, you can identify any patterns or trends and build a complete picture of the employee’s attendance.

Ask employees to follow your sickness absence reporting rules
Make it clear in your sickness absence policy that an employee must call their line manager, rather than send a text or email, leave a voicemail or get someone to call for them.

It’s important to make sure that these rules are followed and enforced consistently.

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Ask for medical evidence
You may become suspicious if they conveniently become sick on a few Fridays, so ask for medical evidence.

Conduct return to work interviews
These should be carried out after every absence. It’s a good way to probe into the reason for the absences and explore possible solutions.

If the employee was absent due to illness, you can see the nature of the illness and whether they are fully recovered or it is part of an ongoing condition. This will determine the next steps.

If they are dealing with bereavement or some other serious personal concern, you can explore whether their absences could be reduced if they have flexible working arrangements in place.

If there is a workplace concern that is making them not want to come into work, you can take steps to address it as per your formal procedures.

If you suspect that they are malingering, return to work interviews may act as a deterrent as they realise that you are taking absences seriously. It’s also a good way to remind them what will occur if their attendance does not improve.

Presenteeism

You will probably know an employee or two, who no matter how sick they are, will always drag themselves to work.

The problem is that when a person doesn’t feel well, it can have negative effects on their morale, productivity, performance and work quality.

If they have a contagious illness, it has the potential to spread around the workplace – and fast. Instead of just having one person off, imagine a whole team! It can place a huge strain on whoever is left standing.

If they refuse to take much needed time off to recover, they may be delaying their recovery and need to take longer absences in the long run.

Here are some key things to consider

Encourage people to stay away!
It’s important to encourage people not to come into work until they are recovered and can work productively. If they can work but they are suffering from a contagious illness, you could consider whether it’s appropriate for them to work from home.

Review your policy and think about your workplace culture
Having a hard-line and aggressive sickness absence policy and workplace culture may be harming those who are genuinely sick. Ask yourself why they are coming into work when it’s obvious they are sick. Are they worried that they are letting their manager and colleagues down? Are they concerned that the work will pile up in their absence? Do managers show their disapproval when employees are ill? Are there significant financial penalties if they don’t come into work? Do they feel their work ethic or commitment will be doubted? Do they fear being dismissed?

Your sickness absence policy should be fair, reasonable and allow some flexibility and it should be implemented in a fair way by your managers.

Promote health and well-being in the workplace
It’s also good practice to promote health and well-being in the workplace, for example, encourage good hygiene practices, offer healthy foods or provide discounted gym classes.

We realise it’s not easy to manage, but it’s important employers and managers stay on top of absences. Seek legal advice for support and guidance.