The Telegraph reported that ‘everybody was scared to throw a ‘sickie’ during the recession for fear it could lead to redundancy – but now it appears that the odd “duvet day” is more acceptable’.
The office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the rate of sickness absence is back up to normal levels with having a cough or cold, followed by accidents and musculo-skeletal problems such as back pain cited as the top reasons for calling in sick. Have you noticed this within your own company? Are staff with minor illnesses becoming more confident about taking time off without worrying that doing so might earmark them for future job cuts? The ONS report said that 613,000 employees were absent from work with sickness in the three months to December last year, resulting in 2m lost working days. During this same time health experts warned workers were forcing themselves to work while genuinely ill, leading to the phenomenon of ‘presenteeism’.
If you are a small business MD, or the person responsible for HR, concerned about a rise in sickness absence, or presenteeism our free Adviceline is here for support and guidance.
Some examples of reasons why employers call us are listed below. Our advisers can confidentially answer any questions you might have, or help you with the next steps:
1. A team member is off on long-term sick.
One of your team has been off work for just over a month. It has put extra pressure on the rest of the team, sales are down and customer complaints are up. You are unsure what to do next, but want to be supportive while protecting your business.
2. You suspect you are experiencing staff truancy
A member of your workforce is frequently off sick. They give you a variety of reasons, all seemingly plausible but you can’t help but wonder if they are always authentic. You’ve noticed increased absence in general and you concerned that it may be influencing others.
3. You are unsure about termination of employment due to chronic sickness.
A staff member has a serious health problem which means they will be off work for the foreseeable future. It has created mounting pressure on your workforce and has begun to affect your business’ efficiency. You are now considering terminating their employment to protect your business.
4. You are worried about a staff injury at work.
Your team say they are happy lifting heavy equipment but you know some suffer from backache from time to time. You’d like to know if you would be liable if one of them sustained an injury, and how you can make it easier for them to raise a concern, or follow a procedure that is already in place.
5. You are unsure if you can contact an employee’s G.P.
You’d like to talk to an employee’s GP about a complicated health issue that is now affecting the rest of the team. You are not sure if you can to do this or if you should raise it with the employee.
6. A staff member has just been diagnosed with a serious health condition.
You’ve just been told that an employee has a chronic health condition. You are naturally concerned and want to do what you can to help as an employer and to support the rest of team that are worried about their colleague.
7. You want to check an applicant’s health before appointing them.
You are about to begin a major recruitment drive and having had issues in the past with absenteeism You would like to protect your business by checking if anyone you take on is fit to do the job.
8. You want to learn about dealing with staff anxiety during this challenging time of recession.
As a small business you are vulnerable during the financial downturn and your team is feeling increasingly stressed with financial worries at home, as well as being concerned about their own job security. You want to help your staff to cope with this difficult time and ensure they stay motivated.
9. You think someone is not well enough to work.
You suspect someone in your team is unwell but they continue to struggle on and come in to work. You have heard presenteeism can be as much of a problem as absenteeism but don’t know how to bring this up with them without causing offence.
10. You want to manage staff stress levels through a big change at work, but are unsure what is the best approach.
Your small business is about to go through a major restructure of roles. Understandably everyone is worried about their jobs and how this change will affect them. Motivation and productivity is down as a result. You would like to support them and to help keep morale up at this stressful time.
The Health for Work Adviceline advisers can help you manage staff absence yourself or to gain access to qualified nurses, doctors and occupational health specialists. These professionals can help you for free to create wellness programmes for your workforce, or advise on a specific issue. In time this could reduce or even prevent absenteeism, and help get people suffering from long-term sickness back to work faster. It can also help employers support their staff while at work and still receiving medication. Simply call Freephone 0800 0 77 88 44.