The 4th February marked this years’ “National Sickie Day”. This always falls on the first Monday in February and is apparently the day when people are most likely to call in sick.
Although there is no definitive reason for this, theories range from employees taking time off to re-evaluate their career goals and attend interviews, to the end of Dry January leading to an unusually high number of hangovers.
The late-night airing of the Super Bowl might lead to UK-based fans of American football taking the next day off work to catch up on sleep. It could also just be the cold weather causing people to feel ill. Either way, it means employers should be aware of how to manage unauthorised absence at this time of year.
As with any other absence case, managers should always follow their sickness absence procedure and not act in haste. Employees have to be treated fairly in order to avoid potential employment tribunal cases.
Most cases of sickness absence will be genuine, so after recording the start date, finish date and reason for absence, no further action is usually needed unless a trigger point is met.
However, with suspected non-genuine absence, the manager should first identify and assess their evidence for believing this. Some employees may have a track record of frequent short-term absences, especially around sporting events or on Monday mornings.
If the evidence is from an eyewitness or social media, managers have to assess whether the source is reliable. For example, if the employee was seen drunk in a pub by a fellow employee, the manager should consider whether they have a positive relationship with that person.
If there is no outstanding evidence, then the manager will have to investigate further. Remember that every period of absence should be followed by a return-to-work interview, no matter how insignificant it might seem. It will let the employee give their explanation so the manager can then review the evidence.
If the investigatory manager believes there is evidence that the absence is not genuine then this may be a conduct issue which could lead to disciplinary action.