Peninsula offers ten tips for dealing with sickness absence as part of its regular update on keeping contact centre leaders in touch with employment law.
Short term v long term
There is no legal definition of short-term absence; many employers define it as absence of less than 4 weeks.
Requiring employees to call you themselves – not via a family member etc – to report absence may prevent non-genuine absence. Insist on a call; text messages etc should not be accepted.
Ascertain the reason
Ask the employee for details of their absence e.g. when illness started, when they expect to return. Make a note of what they say.
Keep a record
Keep details of all absences in a centralised location rather than separate notes in different places so you can easily review an employees’ sickness record. Look for patterns which may require further questioning.
Payment of SSP
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable from the fourth consecutive day of absence if the employee meets certain criteria e.g. minimum
Meet with employee on their return
Ask the employee about the reason for the absence, clarifying the details they gave on the phone. Question inconsistencies. If absence patterns are identified, ask the employee for explanations. Ask about underlying conditions – could there be a disability? The Equality Act 2010 puts extra obligations on you when dealing with disabled employees.
Explain the impact of their absence
Tell the employee how their absence affects the business, overall targets and their colleagues to help them realise that their absence isn’t just about them.
Tying attendance to reward e.g. an attendance bonus may help discourage the typical “I just don’t feel like going in today” attitude.
Non-genuine absence is a disciplinary offence
Disciplinary proceedings should be used where evidence indicates an employee faked sickness absence. Ensure evidence is valid and reliable. A GP fit note is only provided for absences of seven days or more; self-certification is used otherwise.
Invoking disciplinary procedures
Frequent short term absence, where there are no underlying conditions, can be dealt with as a disciplinary offence resulting in warnings and, ultimately, dismissal.
Employment Tribunal Watch
What happened in this case?
An employee tried to give his manager a flexible working request but two managers refused to take it. Although a third manager accepted it, the request was lost and the employee was asked to re-submit it. A meeting was held at which the employee was told the request was refused. The employee was not given the right to appeal. The process took 4.5 months. Employment Tribunal held: Employer did not deal with request reasonably and employee was awarded over £2000.
What should have happened?
Requests must be handled “reasonably” and within 3 months at the most. There should have been no delay in dealing with the request; no requirement to re-submit it (it should have been verbally clarified) and the meeting should have been used to discuss the request (not just convey the outcome). The employee should also have been allowed to appeal. This case was King v Tesco Stores.
Peninsula provide the CCMA with a regular update on the latest legal considerations for contact centre operations. Download the latest legal update here.
About the author
Since 1983 Peninsula has been providing professional services to small businesses across the UK. We started small ourselves, just a few people in a room. So, although we’ve grown over the years, our values remain the same. We know what small businesses need because we are still a small business at heart.
Our first specialism was employment law. For a small business to navigate that maze is next to impossible without the right help. But the cost of having an HR professional on staff is too high for most small businesses, and traditional lawyers often don’t understand small business needs.
That’s where Peninsula comes in. With us on your side it’s like having your own HR team at a fraction of the cost. See more at www.peninsulagrouplimited.com.