Strategies for Managing Sickness Absence in a Changing Landscape

In her article for People Management Magazine Sarah King, employment lawyer at Excello Law, discusses the increasing trend of sickness absence in the UK and provides insights on how HR can address this issue.

Workplace absenteeism is on the rise, prompting a call for a UK sick pay system overhaul by a coalition of charities and experts. Office for National Statistics data reveals a record number of people facing prolonged sickness. CIPD research indicates a 35% surge in sick days, with UK workers averaging 7.8 days off annually.

To address this, employers can consider effective sickness absence policies. These may involve requiring phone reporting, conducting return-to-work interviews, and promoting discussions to identify underlying reasons. Flexibility is crucial, allowing employees with long-term conditions to work from home or adjust hours.

Policies should be adaptable to diverse long-term sickness causes, offering additional support, especially for mental health issues. Employers need awareness of complex employment laws, including Equality Act 2010 obligations, which mandate reasonable adjustments and prevent disability discrimination. Dismissing an employee for disability-related sickness absences may expose employers to discrimination claims.

In addition to Equality Act duties, employers must address health and safety obligations, varying based on the working environment. Accommodating employees signed off unfit to work and requiring fit-to-work notes is vital, impacting liability insurance if absent.

Consideration of medication impact on job performance is crucial, especially for roles involving machinery or driving. While long-term sick leave may allow sufficient cover, repeated short-term absences can disrupt business services. Sickness absence policies are most effective when complemented by an inclusive and healthy business culture, promoting early preventative action and employee flexibility.

Happy employees generally take fewer days off, and examining absence reasons can uncover underlying workplace issues.

Read Sarah King’s full article in People Management Magazine here