Dealing with staff illness

It is a common issue faced by all employers at some stage, how to deal with staff illness, whether it be short or long term. 

Dealing with long term sickness can be dealt with once an employee’s condition has been diagnosed. However, dealing with frequent one off illnesses is a much more delicate subject. Whilst we will all contract some form of illness during our working lifetime, some employees appear more prone to catching them than most.  Whilst you cannot control when employees do or don’t get sick, you can justifiably monitor employee absence. As long as such monitor tools are clearly set out in the Company sickness policy. 

When drafting any sickness policy, employees should consider what reporting methods will be most effective to prevent false sickness days, i.e., not accepting text message, emails or facebook illness reports. Making someone pick up the phone and speak to a manager, or owner of a business will always be a more daunting prospect, and thus may deter staff from pulling sickies. Further always make sure employees are asked for the reasons why they are sick, and not just allowed to say they are ‘ill’. 

Further there are ways of effectively monitoring absence, and setting out to employees in a sickness policy what is and is not an acceptable level of absence. Obviously this can only be used to monitor one off sickness, and should not be used for absences attributable to long term illnesses or conditions. If such systems are used in this way, you will run the risk of a claim for disability discrimination. 

There is a system called the ‘Bradford Factor’ which measures the number of periods of absence against the number of actual day’s absence that an employee has over a 12 month period and gives a comparable score. 

A represents the number of periods of absence the employee has had in the last 12 months
B represents the number of actual days absence the employee has had in the last 12 months 

So the formula used is A x A x B;

Employee Y has 12 days off  in a year, all on separate days, you would therefore calculate as follows;

12 (periods of absence) x 12 x 12 (total number of days taken = 1728

Employee V has 5 days off in one go with the flu, and 4 single days off with other illness, totalling 9 days of illness. The calculation would be as follows:

5 x 5 x 9 = 225

Employees with more frequent absence will then accumulate a higher score than those with longer less frequent periods. 

Such monitoring techniques can then be drafted into a sickness policy and implemented accordingly, if an employee obtains a larger higher score than other members of staff then they may be liable for disciplinary action. Whilst you cannot discipline someone for being ill, figures produced from the Bradford Factor will allow for objective data whereby disciplinary for absences can be made. 

You cannot backdate figures, so data can only be used once this monitoring system has been implemented into the Company Sick policy.

Please contact Lawgistics should you wish for a policy to be drafted up for you. 

Published: 11 Jun 2012

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