Tackling short term frequent absence
Poor attenders are highly disruptive, drain our patience and dent the morale of other team members who need to cover absentees. Even businesses that pay only SSP are vulnerable, but those with Company Sick Pay are especially so
In common with most of these things a stitch in time saves nine, but managers are all too often unwilling to invest the time necessary to fix the problem (or perhaps find the concept of absence management uncomfortable) and the longer it drags on the more the pattern of poor attendance becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Patterns can vary, but typical symptoms of a preventable poor attender are:
Short term absences with a rate above the private sector average (around 2% or 4 or 5 days per annum)
Various sickness excuses – flu, cold, sore back, upset tummy etc. etc. – no underlying or linking clause
Monday/Friday/sunny day/sports day or payday patterns
Absences frequently a day or two.
Similarly to performance issues the first step is to determine the history of the employee – is the increase in sickness a long term problem, or has it only recently become an issue. How does their absence compare with other employees?
Next to schedule an investigation. This doesn’t need to be too formal, nor does it need to be scheduled in advance, but some preparation is required. You should draw up a list of absences and reasons. If you use return to work forms (which are a very good idea and myHRdept can supply very good and simple templates for this purpose) then the investigation may itself be the return to work meeting. See our videos on managing absence.
The investigation phase is just to identify whether a disciplinary hearing (or some other action) is required – the investigation meeting should not turn into a disciplinary hearing, this is a common mistake made by employers.
If a disciplinary hearing is necessary the employee should be given a couple of days to prepare – this is certainly the case for final warnings or dismissal possibilities. They should receive a letter inviting them to attend the hearing and be given the opportunity to bring a companion if they want one (colleague or trade union representative.)
Lastly, if you do intend embarking on a disciplinary route with your employee it is worth taking some initial advice.
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