13th July 2016
Summer has FINALLY arrived. The sun is out and as workers across the country laze around in deck chairs on a Sunday afternoon, they wonder – “If only I could have one more day off…” This thought crosses the minds of holiday makers the day before the flight home, and parents nearing the end of the school holidays. The temptation to languish in the sunshine is responsible for one in eight alleged sick days. This equates to over 16 million work days lost across the country for no medical reason. The UK economy lost 190 million working days to absence in 2014, with each employee taking an average of 6.5 days off sick. The total cost to employers was £17 billion, including more than £2.7bn from 30.4 million days of feigned illness.
So how do you know when you’ve got an employee pulling a sickie? And what can you do about it if you suspect someone of faking it?
Pulling A Sickie Red Flags
Days off immediately after booked time off
This one is a summer classic that we’ve all experienced. You’ve had a few days off and it’s been great. But maybe you could just push you luck just this once to have one more day before having to face down the reality of work once again.
Big Events (football matches/gigs)
It’s funny how people go sick right around the time big bands arrive in town or there’s a critical football match on. It must be terrible for all those people going ill when such an exciting event is happening…
Facebook & social media
60% of employers use social media to check out prospective employees and casually keep tabs on existing ones. When an employee rings in and says they’re ill, only to later post pictures of themselves tripping the light fantastic the night before or living it up far from their sickbed, you can safely assume a summer sickie has been had.
Friday/Monday sick days
For big weekends, sometimes it’s beneficial to take Friday or Monday off. Sure, people can get ill on a Friday or a Monday, but when they’re taking Fridays and Mondays off regularly, you can consider that a red flag.
More than two dead grannies
The trouble with calling out people for emotional grieving is that you look like a monster if you get it wrong. Savvy and unengaged workers know this and are exploitative enough to imagine the death of a relative to get a day off work.
What To Do When You Suspect An Employee
As an employer, your greatest asset to getting you closer to the truth is information. Consider where you can get information and keep detailed records.
- Always follow a fair process: investigate and consider what is reasonable.
- Maintain regular contact and document discussions – a strong paper trail can be the difference between a fair dismissal and a costly tribunal.
- Obtain medical advice where necessary.
- Consider what evidence is available to you: Occupational Health; Facebook print-outs; GP reports; Witness statements; Return to work interview notes
- Get the wording of your allegations right – make them specific, in line with your gross misconduct disciplinary criteria, and don’t rely on just one allegation where matters are not straightforward.
- Is it actually gross misconduct? Prolonged dishonesty may be, but would a one-off over exaggeration perhaps be deemed nearer to misconduct?
Nipping It In The Bud
As an employer, you should be encouraging and incentivising your employees to be happy, work hard and feel invested in your business. That is how a successful employee/employer relationship works. They’re happy to make you money because you reward them with things that give employees worth. This goes beyond simple pay to include praise, a sense of engagement, opportunities for growth and so on.
When people decide that it’s better to go to one cinema than the other it’s usually because of their experience in the place. Sure, the movies being shown are the same and popcorn will taste the same anywhere, but it’s how they feel that’s important. Jobs are the same. While a lucky few of us land a job that they love, many don’t and the reality is that for much of the working populace, one job is very much like another. And when your employees begin to think like this, absenteeism will increase.
If you’re a business owner trying to retain a talented bunch of employees and use their skills to maximum, overworking them is not the way to do it. Research suggests 40% of today’s workers feel overworked, pressured and pushed to the point of anxiety and poor health. This impacts their productivity and efficiency, which can stall progress and slow business growth.
Ensuring your staff have the latest technology and tools to hand can help to streamline highly administrative tasks and make their lives easier. This is particularly important when it comes to payroll. Outsourcing your payroll can free up valuable time for your HR department, especially if you opt for a fully managed solution. If you want to keep control in-house, you can use a front end software and give the administrative burden to a payroll provider.
Employers can reduce sickies by making employees feel valued and instilling in them a sense of pride and responsibility. Employees who feel more engaged with their work are more likely to take fewer days off. Another thing to consider is your working environment. Sure, most of us have to work because of necessity, but the reason we take time off is to go somewhere interesting or do something different. By offering flexibility and variety into a job role will keep people from coming complacent and bored.
If you work in a business that has roles that can be performed anywhere consider offering your staff flexible working hours. This will give them much more flexibility, eliminating the need to fabricate needs to take time off. It will also free your employees to work how they want to, which makes them feel trusted and engaged with your business. Of course, not every job can be done on a beach in the sunshine, but if technology could allow you to, wouldn’t you like to trade in your desk for sun-kissed sand and sapphire seas?