Employment Update for Small Businesses
The post-summer blues and autumnal weather are now well within sight, and that is the time of year when sickness absence levels can spike. So how good are you at keeping on top of absence and making sure that you keep it to a minimum? Loss of resource through sickness absence can be a costly business for many employers, so that is why this month we take a look at this sometimes thorny issue.
Please contact me if you would like to find out a bit more about any of the subjects raised in this update or if you need any help or advice.
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Basic Steps to Help you Keep on Top of Sickness Absence
It is surprising how many small employers have no system for recording sickness absence. Some will ensure that they ask for medical certificates if the period of absence exceeds 7 calendar days (in accordance with the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules) but many do not have any sort of recording tool for short-term absence.
The problem for employers who do not record absence is that they find themselves in a difficult position if and when they feel they have a problem with an employee taking too much time off. If this has not been recorded, all they have is a general feeling and a problematic lack of evidence.
Sickness recording systems do not need to be complex. All that is required is a simple form to record the dates of absence and the nature of the illness/injury. A basic spreadsheet can then be used to record it for each employee and the form can be filed in their personnel file (make sure it is kept securely). It is then just a case of having a look at the spreadsheet on a regular basis (e.g. quarterly) to see if anyone is taking a lot of time off. However, you may wish to consider taking out a trial with our partner, breatheHR, to see if their user-friendly HR system may make life easier when it comes to sickness absence recording and monitoring (among other things). Let us know if you would like a demo of the system.
If you feel one of your employees is taking too much time off sick, you are then able to address this with them by showing them the record and having a discussion about it. At this stage you would deal with it informally to try to find out whether there may be any underlying cause which could indicate a disability and a need to tread carefully. It may be that they are just the sort of unlucky person who is frequently sick, someone who goes off sick at the slightest snuffle, or even someone who “swings the lead”. The outcome of the meeting would normally be an informal warning to explain that you expect an immediate, substantial and sustained improvement in their attendance or that they could face disciplinary proceedings on the grounds of capability (or under a separate capability procedure if you have one). Unless you had clear evidence, I would advise against questioning whether the sickness absence is genuine; it would be better to frame this in terms of the business being unable to sustain this level of absence which is why you need to address it.
That is often enough to nip the problem in the bud. If staff know that you are going to address their sickness absence, they may well think twice before calling in sick unless absolutely necessary.
Other tools that can help change a lax sickness absence culture are:
return to work interviews every time someone comes back from a period of sickness absence no matter how short
strict rules about phoning in when they are off sick (e.g. phone calls to the boss, rather than a message via a colleague, or a text message)
paying SSP only (although you would need to ensure you were paying in accordance with any contractual obligation)
Please contact us if you need any help dealing with sickness absence.
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National Minimum and Living Wage Rates
The current National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates are:
£7.83 per hour for workers aged 25 and over
£7.38 per hour for workers aged 21 to 24
£5.90 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20
£4.20 per hour for workers aged 16 and 17
£3.70 per hour for apprentices under 19 and those over 19 in their first year*
*N.B. Apprentices over 19 and who have completed at least one year are entitled to the appropriate rate for their age.