The cure to sickies

Q: Our employees are meant to speak to their manager if they’re off sick but most of them just leave a message on the office answerphone. Do I need to crack down on this?A: If you fail to stick by your absence policy then employees will see that it is not taken seriously and, of course, abuse will occur. Failing to retain any proof of absence may jeopardise any future disciplinary proceedings against an employee who has been absent for no justifiable reason.

Q: What is a return-to-work interview?A: Return-to-work interviews make employees aware that their absence has been noticed and that their attendance is valued. A manager will also be able to discover any underlying problems that are causing the sick leave and can try to solve them before absence reaches problematic levels. During the interview, you can find out the cause of the absence, check that the employee is fit to return to work and update him or her with any important matters they’ve missed while away.

Q: I’m not happy with the sick note my employee has handed me. What can I do?A: If there are inconsistencies or vagueness in the GP’s note, then you could approach the GP for clarification. Also, if you have a suitable provision in your employment contract, you could ask your employee to undertake a medical examination by an independent consultant.

Q: Do I have to pay sick pay?A: There is, in fact, no legal requirement for an employer to pay anything over statutory sick pay (SSP). Many employers will, however, pay some period of sick pay, either at an employee’s full salary or on some reduced basis.

Q: An employee who was off sick at a time when they were meant to be on annual leave is now asking to take that leave later on in the year.  Am I obliged to reinstate their leave?A: An employee cannot receive both sick pay and holiday pay for the same period of time. You should have a policy to setting out how this situation will be handled. You could allow the employee to cancel their leave and take it at another time – but there’s no legal obligation on you to do so.

Ashley Holden is head of employment at solicitors Herrington & Carmichael.

Related articles:Record staff absence for 2009

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