Pulling a sickie after annual leave request denied

The summer is approaching and we all want to enjoy a lovely holiday.

A big and costly mistake some employees make is seeing a fantastic deal and booking the hotel, flights and car rental without getting authorisation from their manager. Cue an unhappy employee when their manager tells them two of their colleagues are already on holiday and you can’t allow everyone time off at the same time.

What do you do to prevent this occurring? What do you do if you hear rumours swirling around the workplace that the employee will pull a sickie? What do you when you receive a call saying the employee is too sick to come in?

1  Prevention is key

Make sure your annual leave policy makes it clear that employees should request leave and get it approved before booking any holidays. You should encourage employees to book early to avoid disappointment and to collaborate with each other to coordinate leave.

You may oblige employees to take annual leave at certain times of the year, for example, if you close at Christmas time. Alternatively, there may be times when you decide to prohibit employees taking annual leave at particularly busy times which require all hands on deck. If this is the case, remind employees of these rules.

Make sure you consistently hold return to work interviews after every period of absence. If people are aware that this is the company policy and it is always followed, it may help deter people from pulling sickies. After all, nobody wants to face intense questioning after their return to work! You should keep accurate records of these interviews as it will help you identify any patterns or trends.

2  Address the rumours

If you have heard through the grapevine that they intend to call in sick, you should hold a meeting with them to discuss what has come to your attention and whether there is any truth to the rumour.

You should also remind them that any authorised absences may result in disciplinary action. In your Employee Handbook, you should have a provision regarding how employees who deliberately fail to attend work without a proper excuse or in breach of management instructions will be committing an act of gross misconduct, which could result in dismissal without notice or payment in lieu. This can often do the trick and deter them from feigning sickness to get the desired time off.

3  Take action

If they have gone ahead and called in sick, you should carry out a return to work interview to probe into the reasons for the absence. Rather than openly accuse them, you should raise the issue that it could be seen as not a genuine absence as it occurred at the same time as when they wanted to go on holiday.

If they have been away from the workplace for seven days, they will need to provide you with a Fit Note from their GP.

To find out more about return to work interviews, read our guidance and to discuss this further, contact your Employment Law Adviser.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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