With COVID-19 infection rates starting to rise and winter cold and flu season kicking in, it’s no surprise that you may have already come across a rise in sickness absences in your business.
Minor illnesses like coughs and colds have been the main cause for sickness absences since Office of National Statistics (ONS) records began. This, paired with the risk of lower immunity to COVID-19 and increased transmission through more indoor socialising in the colder months, makes it likely that we will see a lot of sickness absence this winter. The NHS has already recommended that ‘Plan B’ measures, such as a return to face masks indoors and working from home where possible, are implemented due to rising COVID-19 cases. However, the government has not introduced any such measures yet.
So, what can you do to manage sickness absences and keep your business running as normal through these challenging times?
Our experts have summarised their best-practice advice, from short-term to long-term sickness absences, the process you should follow, return to work interviews, and recurring absences.
Establishing a fair and consistent process for absences is one way to help identify trends in absences, as well as making sure your employees follow the correct process when calling in sick, which may also act as a deterrent for not turning up to work. For the majority of employees, this process directly influences their decision to attend or not to attend work. As part of your absence policy, you should define the process both employees and employers should follow:
With this process, you need to be able to respond flexibly to a particular individual’s circumstances (e.g., 10 years’ service with no absence, but this year they’re having a spate of bad health). You also need to consider any potential ‘discrimination’ issues connected with the absences.
Managing short-term sickness absences
We’ve all experienced it one time or another during our working life – “I’m not feeling too good today, can I be bothered to go to work or not?” Levels of short-term absence in a business depend on each individual’s answer to this question.
With some employees, an employer can never do enough to get them to choose the first option. In these cases, all you can do is monitor absences, record the details, hold return to work interviews, and when the absence level becomes unsatisfactory, take disciplinary action.
There are new self-isolation rules in place for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If someone is under 18 or has been double vaccinated (for over 14 days), then they no longer need to self-isolate – unless they test positive with COVID-19, or have COVID-19 symptoms and think it best to isolate while they wait for a test result.
However, anyone outside these categories does still need to self-isolate for 10 days if:
Looking for more information?
Sickness absences is a big and sometimes complicated area of Employment Law, especially in the current climate. So, for more information on sickness absences – from Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), to fit notes, to long-term absences (and more) – please download our free guide.
How we can help
Our HR and Employment Law experts are available 24/7 to provide you with advice tailored to your business. From creating policies to taking you through disciplinary processes, we’re here to help.
If you’re an existing client of ours, please call 0345 844 4848. If you’re not already a client of ours, please call 0345 844 1111 to chat through your business’ needs and how we can help.
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