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Addressing the Challenge of Minimising Sickness Absence

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Addressing the Challenge of Minimising Sickness Absence

Addressing the Challenge of Minimising Sickness Absence
July 10
11:04 2015

Katie R picBeing properly staffed is crucial for a hospitality business to run smoothly, and sick days – whether genuine or not – can place a considerable strain on the rest of the team.

Dealing with these fairly, strictly and within the law is therefore crucial. Katie Ruark provides tips on managing absences and sorting the genuine from the ‘sickie’…

Is it sick leave or absenteeism?

While a certain amount of short-term sickness absence is to be expected in any workplace, absenteeism or ‘throwing a sickie’, as it sometimes known, is surprisingly common in the UK.

According to the CBI, one in eight sick days are taken for non-genuine reasons. Needless to say, genuine sickness should be dealt with through absence-management procedures, while absenteeism should be dealt with through disciplinary procedures. Of course, the challenge for small business owners – who are already run off their feet covering for absent staff – is telling which is which.

Communication is key

Many business owners in the leisure and hospitality sector have good relationships with their staff, but it is important to make sure employees understand your expectations regarding sick leave and that you put things on a formal footing.

Write to an employee once they have reported their sickness to explain that you will contact them regularly for updates during their absence and that they are expected to respond.

Keeping the lines of communication open can assist in encouraging a return to work at the earliest opportunity. Maintaining regular contact is a key element of absence management, and is particularly important for employees on longer-term sick leave.

Hold a meeting after every absence

For those employees whose absence appears not to be genuine, a ‘return to work’ meeting – which need be no more than a short conversation – serves as a good reminder that their absence has been noted. However, remember to keep an open mind and resist the temptation to point the finger too hastily. In all cases, such a meeting helps to demonstrate that you are keen to understand why they have been off and to discuss any support required.

Keep a record

Keeping proper records allows an employer to take an overview of the situation, perhaps once the holiday season has died down. Employees who have been off for seven calendar days or less should complete a self-certification form stating the cause of their absence. This will also assist in complying with hygiene regulations, particularly where food is served on the premises. If a staff member is off for more than seven calendar days, a Fit Note should be provided.

Does an employee accrue holiday during sick leave?

Yes, and if an employee then leaves without having returned to work, they must be paid for holidays accrued but not taken. If they remain in employment but have been unable to take holidays because of sick leave, they should be allowed to carry these days over into the new holiday year, although that is limited to four weeks’ statutory minimum holiday entitlement.

Many businesses in the hospitality industry are not large enough to employ a full-time HR manager, but it is important that they take a professional approach to absence-management in the interests of good staff relations, and to avoid potential legal pitfalls or financial shocks.

Katie Ruark is an employment lawyer with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP and a member of the firm’s Food and Drink team.

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Catering Scotland

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