Mulled Wine, Music and Mayhem

We love the Christmas season; eggnog lattes are in the coffee shops, turkey wraps in the cafes and mince pies in the office. And of course, there are parties to attend left, right and centre. However, whilst regular shindigs are fun for employees, the constant partying can pose a problem for employers…

And that problem is summed up in one word: absenteeism.

Yep, alongside the mulled wine, music and mayhem comes an increase in sick days, usually taken on Fridays and Mondays before and after a heavy weekend. Individually, these absences are short and sweet. But if you add them up over the course of the Christmas season, the total number of sick days will make you choke on your sprouts.
Plus, because we’re creatures of habit, December’s truancy can extend into January, with many employees finding it tricky to get back into the swing of things. The fact that they’ve been partying for at least a month doesn’t help their motivation, either.

So, what should you do as an employer to ensure hangover days don’t become a headache?

First and foremost, you should be recording all absences like your life depends on it. This is a case of the more you know, the better you’ll fare in any future disputes. So make sure you track who’s taking sick days, how often and why. Over time you’ll begin to see a pattern emerge and start to spot the signs. So if the sickies are fakies, it will become blindingly obvious. You’ll also be able to refer back to hard and fast facts, giving you the oomph to put your foot down.

Then there’s the power of return to work interviews, which by their very nature will help reduce sickness. By opening up communication between you and your staff, you’ll create a human-to-human environment that will give employees more confidence to express themselves. Equally, you’ll put yourself in a position of knowledge about how they are, what problems they may have and how to keep them motivated.

On the flip side of things, staff who stay at work despite actually being unwell is just as damaging. Why? Because they spread germs (resulting in more staff absences) and don’t perform as well as they could. So make sure your staff know that if they’re genuinely ill, you’d much rather they stay at home and return to work snot-free.

In cases of genuine extended sickness, you should make their return to work as smooth and stress-free as possible by conducting a return to work interview, making necessary workplace adjustments and ensuring that you’re following any standards or legislation set out in your sickness policy – a must-have document that outlines the policies and procedures in place to manage sickness absence and return to work.

If you haven’t heard of the initiative, Fit for Work, then we urge you to get onboard. This free scheme helps employees stay in or return to work sooner, offering free occupational health assessments for those who have been off for four weeks or more. It also provides employers with a plethora of advice and information about sickness absence, which is an absolute must if you have limited in-house occupational health services.

The most important thing when dealing with sickness is this: ensure the health and wellbeing of your staff is taken seriously and that all precautions are taken to look after them. But when it comes to fake sickies, it’s about being vigilant so that you learn the patterns, recognise the signs and keep one step ahead of the perpetrators
If you need help developing a watertight sickness absence policy, get in touch!

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