Managing employee sickness absence – It’s a problem most managers come up against at some point in their career. A staff member, previously productive and an asset to the team, starts to phone in sick more and more often. By the time it’s begun to raise eyebrows, it’s already a problem that needs dealing with.
Quite apart from the disruption of frequent absenteeism, this is an issue that can drain staff morale rapidly. So how should you handle the situation?
Possible Reasons for Absence | Managing employee sickness absence
First, you need to find out the real reason behind the absences. There are four main causes.
– Genuine sickness.
– A private issue that’s starting to take its toll on the employee’s professional life.
– Difficulties in the workplace leading to a reluctance to show up.
– The sick days are a cover for job-hunting elsewhere.
All of these present their own difficulties but can be dealt with. The only solution to the problem is to have a conversation with the employee, and this can’t be delayed. But there are legal, moral, and commercial issues which require subtlety and understanding.
Take It Slow | Managing employee sickness absence
An employee is entitled to their privacy, and this is as true in health and personal problems as in anything else. Even if their absences are impacting their performance, that doesn’t give a manager the right to be intrusive.
Even if you feel you’re being taken advantage of and that the sickness is an excuse, you can’t afford to be trigger happy. If the absences do turn out to have genuine reasons behind them, you could land your company in deep, hot water if you act rashly.
Also, the cost of recruiting and training new staff means it’s usually better to solve any problem in place rather than starting over. And that’s not to mention the potential competitive intelligence issues of losing a knowledgeable employee to a rival.
All this means that taking an understanding approach to the problem isn’t a matter of goodwill or soft-heartedness. It’s sound business sense.
Handling the Issue | Managing employee sickness absence
So what should you do? There are five important points to bear in mind.
– Approach the problem from a non-judgmental direction, unless it becomes clear you need to take firm action.
– Involve your company’s human resources department every step of the way to make sure you’re not falling foul of national or local laws.
– If the problem is down to genuine sickness, is there any way you could improve matters? Does your business have access to healthcare options which might help? Could improvements in the workplace reduce physical stress?
– If the problem has more to do with mental stress or unhappiness, is it a purely personal issue? Or could this be a warning of a deeper malaise also affecting other staff members?
– Could introducing flexible hours or home-working reduce stress levels? Could you investigate whether there are any personality conflicts or other workplace problems?
Hopefully, you can solve the issue without impacting other staff members. But beware of overreacting. Think carefully before introducing measures such as sickness evaluations or three strikes policies. It’d be a serious mistake to punish other staff members for an issue only involving a single employee.
The bottom line is, sometimes a manager needs to deal with situations when personal and professional lives meet. Managing employee sickness absence is a large part of this and underlines your managerial qualities. It helps no one to overreact – it’s a business issue, not a personal one. It should be dealt with in that way, even if it turns out to not be a genuine sickness matter.
Tutorcare offer a wide range of online management training programmes.
Offering your employees the opportunity to communicate in private is a great way to improve productivity in the workplace. Our courses include;
Staff appraisal techniques
Giving and receiving feedback
Effective communication training
We also offer the QCF Level 7 Diploma in management which replaces the Level 7 NVQ Diploma in strategic management and leadership.