Monday morning, 8.30am, a beautiful fine day and bang on cue, one of your employees, John, calls in (using that curious hoarse voice he always has when he is reporting sickness) to let you know he’s unwell (painful boils this time). There’s no underlying medical reason causing his absence. He’s just simply away rather frequently with a wide variety of mostly unrelated ailments.
John has a bad dose of what we call “chronic Mondayitis”. It often afflicts people on Fridays, before or after a bank holiday and on late shifts as well. Many managers shrug and accept these absences as just one of those annoying things that employers have to put up with. But unchecked absence is bad for business. It causes employers stress; eats away at both time and money and puts more pressure on those employees left behind to cover absence. Over 140 million days are lost each year in the UK due to sickness absence.
The good news is that you don’t have to put up with it and it’s really quite straightforward to tackle.
There are four key steps.
- Get your recruitment right.
- Create a healthy work environment.
- Have clear procedures which are communicated and followed.
- Identify and deal with issues quickly and escalate if they’re not resolved
Let’s start at the beginning. If an employee suffered from Mondayitis in his last job, it is likely that he will do so again. Implement appropriate screening procedures during selection to avoid recruiting a problem.
Secondly, create a healthy workplace and encourage employees to look after their own health. Prevention is better than cure! Businesses that actively promote healthy living have less sickness absence. Examples include the following.
- Initiatives to promote a healthier workforce, for example getting a five a side football team or a work cycling group going.
- Encourage staff to take their holidays.
- Offer to pay for flu jabs in the winter months and encourage the wearing of layers, especially from neck to waist. People are less likely to become ill if the neck chest and stomach areas which contain the vital organs are well protected and this is particularly important when people are outside a lot.
- Provide antiseptic hand wash. A lot of bugs are passed on because of poor hygiene.
When people do become sick, have clear communication procedures. Use notification telephone conversations positively. When a sick employee phones in, take down as much information as you can. Prepare a template to ensure that you collect all the relevant data. Always be firm, polite and sensitive. Make arrangements to contact the employee later in the day (or next day) for a progress report so that you can plan the work schedule. In doing so ask the following:
- What is wrong with the employee?
- What are the symptoms?
- When did he first experience hem?
- What’s the employee doing about seeking medical advice?
Get as much detail as you can and keep a note of it.
You can review this information at a return to work (RTW) meeting. Well done, RTW meetings can be an incredibly useful method of discussing the employee’s health and seeing what can be done to support him and enable him to come to work.
Spot potential problems at an early stage. Many organisations use trigger points: this is the point at which the employer’s concern is officially triggered and suggests that an employee’s attendance merits a long hard look at the reasons for absence, together with a plan to help the employee meet the required attendance levels. There are a number of different trigger point mechanisms, for example three periods of absence in 12 months or five days whichever arises first. If you have someone with chronic Mondayitis sufferer, the key is to shine a light on his absence and relentlessly, but very nicely work with him to ensure his attendance meets minimum standards.
- Hold RTW meetings on the employee’s first day back.
- If the employee hits the trigger, review his health in the context of an informal welfare meeting.
- Take disciplinary procedures for unacceptable absence levels where there is no underlying medical reason for the absences.
- If you pay company sick pay consider introducing some restrictions, for example, sick notes submitted during before, during or after disciplinary proceedings have been instituted.
- Take medical advice where appropriate.
- Get help so you can ensure that you are acting correctly.
Accept that people are not robots and even the most motivated and diligent will get sick at times. Dealing effectively with absence calls for a continuous and coordinated effort. Sound, fair and consistent policies and procedures will provide a framework within which absence problems can be better handled.
Chronic Monday-itis – read more.
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2018 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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