Advice on Monitoring Short term Sickness in SME companies

1. Setting out your Aims

1(a) This is important to set out your aims and policy. Communicate this to your staff and it can be part of your new employee induction procedure. Usually your aims will be to minimize absence levels and maximize attendance, which is crucial to delivering a high quality service to your customers and clients. Poor attendance affects productivity and the morale of staff overall. This is often reflected in staff surveys in many different industries. In these surveys management are described as “weak” and “ineffective” if they fail to deal with staff with excessive and unsatisfactory levels of attendance.

(b) Aims should also refer to a commitment to treat all staff fairly and consistently to ensure for example that your company is not in breach of the 2010 Equality Act.

(c) You can set out a target to be achieved in terms of the number of days or the percentage you wish to achieve in terms of short-term absences. Example 5 days for a full time worker pro rata for part time staff.

2. Readiness – what do you need to think about before you start monitoring

2(a) There are a number of factors for your monitoring to be successful: –

i. Ensure that all your staff and new staff on arrival are informed that
attendance is monitored.
ii. Ensure that managers are committed to the aims and that there are clear responsibilities
iii. Ensure one person in your company is responsible for collecting absence information – names, days and reasons for absence
iv. Ensure that managers or the management team are informed periodically, usually monthly of the accumulative absence levels over a rolling 12 months
v. Ensure the relevant managers are informed of individual staff who exceed a designated threshold
vi. Ensure your managers and supervisors are trained in dealing with attendance issues

(b) Providing monitoring and absence statistics does actually help to reduce
sickness absence in businesses. Calculate sickness absence rates using the
following method:

Absence in hours or working days x 100 = %
Annual contractual hours or working days
(less holidays and bank holidays)

Example: 15 days short term absence over 260 days for a full time worker less 28 days leave = 232 days = 6.5% absence

(c) This formula can be used for individuals, teams or for the whole company to
measure the success of your monitoring and whether the policy is having an impact so helping to reduce sickness absence.

(d) Statistics will also tell you of individual problems and whether you should be
speaking to certain staff. Also the number of sickness incidences and the
particular weekday or weekend day they fall on can indicate problems. These can then be addressed as frequent incidences can in themselves cause staff shortages for front line services.

3. Individual Benchmarking

3(a) Set out your threshold, which will trigger a conversation with a member of
staff which may be crude but will allow your company to consider a response.

(b) This will take in to account.

• Number of sickness days or hours
• Number of Incidents
• Combination of incidents and time off
• Pattern and trends
• Absence history

(c) A member of staff with 10 years of clear 100% attendance may have a poor
year, so an informal conversation may be useful because of this occasion you and your company may consider that some welfare or home issue is a factor here.

(d) Some companies set 5 to 10 short term days as the sickness absence trigger in any one year for meetings to start. All single absences less than 20 working days or equivalent working hours should count as a short-term absence. Broadly all dentist and GP appointment are not usually deemed to be sickness and you may have a separate staff policy or arrangement for these types of appointments.

4. Action you can take

4(a) Managers are accountable for the service they provide to their customers and clients and it is their responsibility to look at the individual absence records and decide what action to take in view of history and the knowledge they have of each person.
(b) Normally managers would conduct “return to work” discussions on the return of a member of staff, even for an absence of one day. This discussion can be very informal and casual, just to let the member of staff know that the company is aware that someone has been off work. It is an opportunity to ask if they are “ok” and well enough to be at work. It may also be appropriate to remind the member of staff of the days they have had off over the previous 12 months. This may trigger a deeper conversation.

(c) However, a decision may be taken to have a formal interview with a member for staff where your benchmark has been triggered. This is the advice:

• Check the absence data and certificates – I recommend you check twice, an error here can be embarrassing
• Invite the member for staff to a meeting by letter or email. The letter should state that the monitoring system had highlighted their absence for the last 12 months to be “X” number of days over “X“ incidents.
• There is no statutory right for the member of staff to be companied by a trade union representative however, you may allow this or for a work colleague to accompany the member of staff.
• Take notes at the meeting
• Consider the following script:

“ our records show that X days/hours absence due to sickness is too high and causing operational difficulties’

“ Is you attendance likely to improve?” The answer is usually Yes, which commits the member of staff.

• Avoid if you can having a conversation about the reasons for their absence and the best policy is to say you are not questioning their honesty or genuineness. However if you think there is misconduct or fraud or dishonesty, this would be a disciplinary matter which requires investigation
• If the member of staff refers to an underlying medical condition you may ask for a medical report from your Occupational Health Service provider
• Confirm the meeting in a letter or email saying that you expect his/her short-term absence to improve and that you will meet again in 3 months time when absence records can be reviewed again.
• If no significant improvements after 3 months and absence continues, you can move on and issue a formal warning
• In 95% of cases absence improves and you will not have to escalate to a formal warning

Exclusions: DO NOT COUNT

1. Absences due to pregnancy
2. Absences due to accidents at work
3. Absences due to accidents outside work although if a third party is at fault e.g. RTA’s, you can add your sick pay costs to any claim being brought by your member of staff against a third party. You will need to inform staff that they will have inform the company about their claim or the company checks with them when it looks like an accident outside work e.g., in the case of a sporting accident the club may have an insurance policy.

For more advice contact The Peacock HR Consultancy