Module 2 – Handling Absenteeism
Welcome to Module 2 of your Premier Management Development programme.
We have decided to add this module to provide you with more information and explanation about how to handle a situation where one of your employees is absent from work or may have committed an act of misconduct.
Many businesses suffer from time lost due to employee absenteeism.
Managing absence problems is a common job function for most people managers. However, a good manager identifies and deals with the causes rather than just the effects.
Employees are absent from work for 4 main reasons:
- they can’t get into work
- they are sick
- they feel unable to come to work because of family or caring responsibilities
- they are on authorised leave such as holiday, maternity leave or a training course.
As winter approaches and the prospect of bad weather returns, managing staff absence can be a challenge for employers.
We have a Severe Weather Policy. It is set out in the Employee Handbook, and is one of the documents which can be downloaded from the employee-relations website (just go to Downloads).
Severe Weather Policy
- Employees are expected to make every possible effort to attend their place of work, even when severe weather conditions prevail. They are expected to explore all means of transport before notifying their Reporting Manager that they are unable to get into work. This includes public transport and personal transport, such as walking, if possible. A maximum of three miles from home to the place of work is considered to be a walkable distance, unless a recognised health condition or disability prevents this.
- In some cases, your Reporting Manager may consider whether you may take work home if bad weather is expected, and/or work from home if the nature of the work permits this. This must always be agreed in advance.
- It may be possible that a variation to normal working hours arrangements can apply and these should be discussed and agreed with your Reporting Manager in the light of the needs of our customers
- Any member of staff who is prevented by the weather from attending work must contact their Reporting Manager before their start time. If he/she is unavailable, then the next person in authority should be notified. Failure to notify as required above without good reason will normally result in the employee concerned being considered as absent without leave, and may result in loss of pay.
- Employees may be permitted to finish work early. This will be at the discretion of their Reporting Manager and will only be implemented on an exceptional basis where;
a) Such action will not disrupt service provision.
b) Earlier finish times will greatly decrease the duration of journey home, e.g. the curtailment of public transport when darkness falls, or where worsening weather conditions are predicted leading to possible road closures. Employees with the furthest travelling distance will normally be given priority in these circumstances.
- For employees who are not able to work at all, the initial acceptance of a reason for non-attendance lies with their Reporting Manager. They should make a decision based on the circumstances affecting that particular individual. The following options may be considered:-
a) Annual leave
b) Unpaid leave
c) Use of accrued time owing
d) Allowing the individual to make the time up at a later date
- The Reporting Manager concerned will ensure that time cards/sheets carry the appropriate advice to Salaries & Wages.
- In the unusual case that weather conditions are so extreme, then operation of this policy may be suspended. The decision that suspension of the policy is required will be made by the Directors, who will discuss with the Managers the arrangements that should apply on a day-to-day basis.
- This policy should also be used for other disruptions such as traffic disruption and fuel shortages although more specific guidance may be issued at the time.
Guide for Making Decisions where the absence is due to severe weather
Employees who cannot get into work must contact you before their start time to let you know. If they aren’t at work and haven’t contacted you within the first thirty minutes of their usual working hours, you should try to contact them to find out the reason.
If they have not contacted you, or arranged for someone else to contact you, take advice from the Employee-Relations Consultant before deducting anything from their pay.
Consider how far away an employee lives from work. It is not reasonable to expect him/her to walk more than three miles.
Consider whether he/she has a medical condition which prevents them from walking to work in bad weather. If they have, or might have, a health issue, you must take advice from the Employee-Relations Consultant before taking any action. This is to discuss whether they might have additional protection because they have a “disability”.
Consider whether the employee may take work home and/or work from home during the severe weather. If so, agree the work with the employee concerned, and tell him/her the period, eg for two days. You can always extend that period if necessary.
Consider whether the employee’s working hours should be altered during the severe weather. This will, of course, depend upon your business needs at the time.
Consider whether they should finish work early. It is your discretion but, as a guide, only permit it where:
a) this will not disrupt the services you are due to provide.
b) An earlier finish time will greatly decrease the duration of the employee’s journey home, e.g. the curtailment of public transport when darkness falls, or where worsening weather conditions are predicted leading to possible road closures. Employees with the furthest travelling distance should normally be given priority in these circumstances.
Where an employee tells you that they are not able to work at all, then the initial acceptance of the reason they give lies with you as their Reporting Manager. You should make a decision based on the circumstances affecting that particular individual. The following options may be considered:-
(a) annual leave
(b) unpaid leave
(c) use of accrued time owing
(d) allowing the individual to make the time up at a later date
You must ensure that time cards/sheets carry the appropriate advice to Salaries & Wages.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
We are responsible for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to all eligible employees during authorised absence due to sickness/injury. There are specific qualifying regulations for the payment of SSP (laid down by Government regulation). Provided they qualify we will pay them SSP when they are absent through sickness/injury for 4 or more consecutive days. Such payment will be made through our normal pay procedures and will be subject to the normal statutory deductions (N.I. and Income Tax).
SSP is only payable on 'qualifying days' which are days when the employee concerned would normally be at work. However, the first 3 qualifying days of sickness/injury absence do not attract SSP and these are called 'waiting days'. Where there are linked periods of sickness/injury absence of 4 days or more (i.e. more than one such period of absence within a 56 day period) then only one period of waiting days is served. Providing that they comply with the Company’s rules regarding absences through sickness they will receive any Statutory Sick Pay to which they are entitled. Any other payment will be at the sole discretion of the Company. You should discuss exercising this discretion with your reporting manager before making it or promising it.
The payment of salary during the waiting days is also at the Company’s discretion. Again, you should discuss exercising this discretion with your reporting manager before making it or promising it.
We reserve the right not to make any payment in respect of absences (whether in respect of illness or otherwise) where the employee concerned has not complied with our absence reporting and/or medical certification procedures, and/or has not fully co-operated with any request(s) by the Company for further information and/or documentation.
Notification of Absence
An employee must notify you by telephone at the earliest opportunity on the first day of their sickness absence. Normally this should be done before their starting time on that day but, if this is not possible, then they must contact you at the latest by 10:00am or within 3 hours of the start of their work on that date whichever is the soonest. If these timescales are not complied with, then you should request an explanation.
Notification should be made personally, or when they are not able to this, then it should be by a relative, friend or neighbour.
They must comply with the above so that you can make arrangements to cover their duties and responsibilities thus minimising the disruption to your business and maintaining a reasonable workload for their colleagues.
They must provide you with the following information:-
- the reason for their absence
- how long they expect to be absent from work.
Also, they must notify you by telephone at the latest by midday on the day before the day on which they intend to return to work. This is to allow you to stand down any temporary arrangements made to cover their absence and to plan for them to resume their duties and responsibilities.
If an employee fails to comply with any of the above, then you should consider invoking the Disciplinary Procedure and withholding payment of wages. However, you must discuss any such action with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant before taking it.
Where an employee has been absent for no more than seven consecutive days (including Saturdays and Sundays), they must complete and give you a Self-Certification Form on their return to work.
A self-certificate form can be downloaded from the employee-relations website.
An employee who is absent from work for longer than seven days must give you a Doctor’s Medical Certificate. After they have given you their first certificate you, they must keep you notified of their continued sickness at appropriate intervals and to keep you supplied with consecutive medical certificates to justify their absence. We have reserved the right in certain circumstances to require a Doctors’ Certificate even for periods of absence less than seven days. If you wish us to exercise that right, please discuss the issue first with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
Access to Medical Records
We have reserved the right, where it is deemed appropriate, to request a written medical report supplied by an employee’s doctor/specialist, which provides details of that employee’s current state of health and their fitness to continue to undertake their duties and responsibilities. Their written consent has to be sought on each occasion. There is a statutory procedure which must be applied and, therefore, you must refer the matter to your Reporting Manager or the Employee-Relations Consultant before taking any action regarding medical records.
Independent Medical Examinations
We have reserved the right, where it is considered necessary, to ask an employee to undergo an independent medical examination at the Company’s expense, and they are expected to comply with all reasonable requests.
Recovery of Sick Pay
Where an employee’s absence is due to an injury caused as a result of a negligent third party and they are able to claim damages from that third party for loss of earnings, then they must promptly inform you in order that any Company Sick Pay made to them can be recovered. You must then promptly tell Salary & Wages.
Return to Work Interview
This must be informal and brief.
The questions to be asked of the employee include –
- are you feeling better?
- what was the reason for the absence?
- have you completed a self-certification form? (arrange for it to be completed and filed)
- (for absences of more than 7 days’ duration), do you have a Fit Note?
If in doubt, discuss the matter with your Reporting Manager or the Employee-Relations Consultant.
Alternative Light Duties
If an employee is certified unfit to perform their normal duties through sickness/injury, we have reserved the right to require them to attend work and undertake any reasonable alternative/light duties, or work shorter hours, for the period of their incapacity. When deciding this, you must have due regard to the nature of their sickness/injury and circumstances. If in doubt, please refer to your Reporting Manager or to the Employee-Relations Consultant.
If an employee is suffering from such a condition, then you must not permit them to work without having first received a Fit Note from their doctor. If in any doubt, you must discuss the matter with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
An employee is entitled to unpaid leave provided that –
- they have at least one year’s continuous service
- their child is aged 5 or under (or aged 18 or under if disabled)
- their name appears on the child’s birth or adoption certificate (which you may ask to see)
They are entitled to up to 13 weeks’ leave until the child reaches their 5th birthday (or 18th birthday) if disabled.
Where an employee does not qualify for Parental/Adoption Leave, then please discuss the matter with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
The purpose of this leave is to enable an employee to look after the welfare of their child in order, for example, to –
- spend more time with them in their early years
- be with them whilst they are in hospital
- settle them into new childcare arrangements
- look at school arrangements
Time Off to Care for Dependants
An employee is entitled to reasonable unpaid time off to deal with “emergencies” involving a “dependant”.
An emergency is any unexpected or sudden problem, eg if a dependant falls ill, has been injured or assaulted. It may also include the need to deal with an “incident” at school, make sudden care arrangements, or arrange a funeral.
A dependant could be a husband, wife, partner, child, parent or anyone else living in their household as a member of their family. It might include an elderly neighbour living alone.
An employee does not have to ask you in writing for time off for this leave.
You should agree to all such requests for reasonable time off wherever possible.
“Reasonable” in this context means no more than seven days in any 12 month period.
If in doubt, please discuss the matter with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
You have a discretion when deciding a request for leave which does not fall within any of the above categories. If in doubt, please discuss the matter with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
Unauthorised absence usually means taking the odd day off without having given a reason.
You have a discretion as to whether to withhold pay for such absences but before doing so, please discuss the matter with your Reporting Manager or with the Employee-Relations Consultant.
You should discuss the matter informally with the employee concerned regarding the first occasion of unauthorised absence. Do not issue any warnings regarding that absence.
Keep a note on file with the date of the discussion and what was said.
Remember than an employee has a statutory right to see their personal file!
If the employee is absent again without authorisation within the following 12 months, you should consider whether to invoke the Disciplinary Procedure.
You cannot issue a warning unless and until you have invoked and applied the Disciplinary Procedure.
Invoking the Disciplinary Procedure for Poor Attendance
Make a note of the date and reasons given for all the employee’s absences during the previous twelve months.
Look to see if there is any pattern.
Look to see if any of the reasons include –
- work-related stress
- a mental or physical disability
If any of the above have been mentioned as a reason, then you must not proceed without having first discussed the matter with your Reporting Manager or the Employee-Relations Consultant because we must comply with all relevant statutory obligations first.
Respect & Professionalism
Always remember to treat employees with respect, whether or not they deserve it. We have the procedures in place to effectively deal with all issues as they arise. If you find yourself provoked or unable to handle things professionally at the time, just walk away from the situation. Return to it when you are able to respond professionally. Feel free to ask for guidance.
If you lose it and respond unprofessionally, then the employee concerned may be entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal before we get an opportunity to handle the issues fairly. The reason which will usually be given is that your conduct destroyed their trust and confidence in you to act fairly.
1 Dave and Andy call in (separately) to say that they can’t get in to work due to the horrific weather conditions. What are the issues you need to consider and, bearing in mind the level of business at your depot, what will you decide to do in their cases. Andy lives further away than Dave.
2 Ray, who has just started work with the Company, phones in to say that he has Flu, won’t be in for one week, and asks what will happen regarding his pay. What will you tell him?
3 John asks for 2 days off to take his elderly neighbour to hospital for a minor operation and to take him home the following day. He also wants to stay with him at the hospital because the neighbour (who has nobody else to care for him) has requested it. What will you decide?
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