The steps that employers can take to keep workers well – and sickies to a minimum

The first Monday in February, National Sickie Day, is the day in the year when the most people will phone in sick to work, using a variety of excuses to take the day off. You may have noticed the trend in your own workplace.

In November, the Office for National Statistics published the average number of sick days per worker per year from 1995 to 2018.

This data indicates that the average number of sick days taken fell consistently from a high of 7.2 days in 1995 to a low of 4.1 days in 2017 – but has started to creep back up, with 4.4 days in 2018.

While this represents an average, we meet many employers who have a handful of staff members taking far in excess of this national figure. You may be in the same position. But what can you do?

Put the focus on well-being.

Put the focus on well-being

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. If you can find a way to improve staff health and well-being then you will reduce the amount of sickness absence taken across your workforce.

“Wellness” and “well-being” were the buzz words of 2019 and there is growing understanding of the importance of focusing on this and the improvements that it can make to attendance and productivity.

All organisation needs resilient employees. People who are able to cope with challenging situations, at work and outside work, who can navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity, who can handle change and pressure.

Employees who have healthy personal coping strategies that mean they can manage their personal stress levels.

There are practical steps that an employer can take to educate and support staff in improving their own health and building their resilience to situations that they may have found stressful in the past.

In doing so, the employer can reap the benefits of a better engaged and committed workforce.

For more information about the work we do with employers in this area, please check out our website or give us a call:

Encouraging resilience

We know that for some people these attributes don’t come naturally but fortunately, people can be taught and encouraged to become more resilient.

One of the key features and the starting point for improving resilience is self-awareness – knowing the signs and symptoms of stress, and its sources, and taking early action to address them.

It requires space and time to reflect on your habits and behaviours, to understand your own emotions and reactions.

Of course, the prevention route only works where absence is genuine and resolvable through the employer and worker taking practical steps to improve health and resilience. If absence is not genuine or is due to a serious underlying condition that is harder to resolve, then formal procedures can be engaged to manage this.

In rare circumstances where it can be proven that absence is not genuine, then a disciplinary procedure is appropriate and may well result in a dismissal for gross misconduct.

However – more often than not – the employer has to assume that the reasons for absence are genuine and manage on that basis.

In this scenario, we find that it is beneficial for employers to set levels of absence at which an employee will be required to attend an absence review meeting to discuss their absence.

If an employee hits one of these levels, it will trigger a review of their absences and, in the absence of a need to make adjustments to accommodate a disability, the employee will be issued with a warning. In the same way as a disciplinary procedure, warnings will build up to a dismissal.

Employers are well aware that health is a sensitive subject and that there is a need to tread carefully, but this doesn’t mean that your hands are tied.

There are practical things that you can do to reduce your employee absences – give us a call and we can talk through the prevention and management routes and come up with a plan that is best for you.