Calling in sick? Are you actually ill, or are there other issues at play? What employers can do to help

Photo by kate hiscock via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by kate hiscock via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

New research from Axa PPP Healthcare has produced some interesting figures concerning the reaction of some SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to staff who phone in sick. The survey revealed that 60% of bosses of SMEs do not always believe their employees when they call in sick, and that 37% admitted to checking social media profiles of staff they suspect of ‘pulling a sickie’. In addition, 25% of bosses have asked colleagues to call and check on employees they think are lying about being ill.

It is interesting that the research also found that nearly half of employees (46%) admitted feeling nervous about calling their boss, even when they are genuinely ill, which suggests a working environment in which there is no culture of communication and trust between employers and staff.

People who are off work frequently may be avoiding work because they feel frustrated with their work, are experiencing problems with colleagues, feel a lack of support from management or have other personal issues that are preventing them from committing themselves wholeheartedly to their work.

Keeping, maintaining and checking absence records will allow employers to spot any absence patterns, and open and honest communication with employees makes it possible for underlying issues (including health problems) to be discussed so that work adjustments can be made to make it easier for a person to remain in work. Open dialogue may also reveal the need for organisations to try to accommodate employees’ special requests (e.g. flexible working to alleviate pressure caused by childcare issues or a long commute) in order to prevent employees from calling in sick for reasons other than illness or from becoming ill due to being under pressure for prolonged periods.

The free Health for Work Adviceline on is available to offer guidance to employers and employees about work health issues, or problems with sickness absence on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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