Navigating Sickness Management in the Workplace

20 December 2023 | Human Resources

Essential Strategies for Small Businesses

Since 2020, UK businesses have faced a significant challenge: rising sickness levels. This uptick impacts employee well-being and carries a substantial economic burden. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for business owners to establish robust and consistently applied processes to manage sickness effectively to mitigate financial losses.

Read on to learn more about how Dazzle’s specialist HR service can help you positively manage sickness absence.

Consistent Sickness Management Processes

Creating a company-specific sickness policy is wise, ensuring it is legally compliant and proportionate for your business. ACAS can be a valuable reference point for resources if you wish to create your own policy.

A systematic approach starts with benchmarking current sickness levels and setting clear goals, such as reducing overall sickness or frequent short-term absences. You then need to design and implement a sickness policy and process that supports you in achieving your goals in a positive and supportive way.

There are sound business reasons to manage sickness levels carefully. Absence management should focus on prevention and proactive management to reduce avoidable absences, not penalising employees. Implementing and consistently applying fair but robust processes can reduce the likelihood and impact of dismissal claims. 

Setting Effective Sickness Management Triggers

Setting absence thresholds (or triggers) to define what action should be taken and when. For example, you may decide to take action when an employee has had 4 sickness occasions in 12 months or if they have reached 12 total days of sickness.

It’s not enough to set these triggers out in your policy – you need to have a plan to act on them, too.

Interviews of concern are a great first step when trigger points are reached. These should be supportive formal meetings to explore the reasons behind sickness absences and clarify the consequences if absence levels don’t fall within your accepted company absence levels.

Delving into Sickness Details

Firstly – it’s okay to ask questions. Just as a GP would need more information than someone “feels unwell” to reach a diagnosis, employers need a good understanding of the extent of an employee’s sickness. 

Naturally, this process must be handled sensitively, especially when dealing with protected characteristics.

When you understand your employee’s condition, prognosis and how it affects them, you can work out what support you can offer. However, avoid comparing conditions and actively listen and understand each employee’s situation.

Reasonable Adjustments and Occupational Health Referrals

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing sickness, making reasonable adjustments or seeking help from an occupational health team. 

Each individual’s needs must be considered when making reasonable adjustments – keeping in mind that these will differ from person to person, even if you have two employees with the same condition.

When it comes to the impact of health conditions on your employees, do remember that even if a condition isn’t work-related, you could still offer support that would help. For example, offering flexible working hours to those with caring responsibilities so that their daily routines are less stressful.

Occupational health referrals signal a serious approach to dealing with sickness absence, and an advisor can help guide you on appropriate adjustments to offer. Don’t feel you have to implement every recommendation as, depending on your business, it may not be feasible.

Capability Procedures and Formal Action

If you reach the point that all support options have been exhausted, it may be necessary to consider capability action as the individual may become incapable of doing their job. The shape of this next stage will differ in large and small organisations. For example, in a large organisation, you may be able to redeploy someone to a more suitable role. In a smaller business, this may not be possible, and there is a chance your employee could lose their job. 

If it looks likely that this could be the outcome, if you haven’t already engaged a specialist advisor, it is a good idea to seek professional advice.

The Value of Specialist HR Advice

Employment Law can be a grey area, with much of the application determined by how the law is interpreted and justified. This is why case law plays such an important part in the outcomes of employment tribunals. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use an HR specialist to develop your absence management policies and train your management team to implement them. This option will help you ensure that policies are adaptable, legally compliant, and tailored to your business needs.

Effective sickness enhances your reputation as an employer, aiding talent acquisition. Something that is much needed in today’s challenging recruitment environment.

Sickness Management by Dazzle Business Support

The HR advisors at Dazzle Business Support offer experienced people-focused HR solutions that enhance business performance and foster a positive company culture. Our advisors can help you design and implement a system that works for your business, delivering positive outcomes such as reduced sickness absence and enhanced productivity. 

Flexibility in Engaging with Dazzle

Dazzle Business Support offers versatile engagement options, from project-based support to ongoing assistance, tailored to your business’s unique needs.

Effective sickness management is not just about reducing absenteeism; it’s about creating a supportive, understanding workplace that values employee well-being. With the right strategies and professional guidance, businesses can navigate these challenges successfully.

Working with Dazzle Business Support

Get in touch today to learn more about how Dazzle Business Support’s Fractional HR services can help you reduce and manage sickness levels in your business. 

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