HR BLOG: How to manage the employee who keeps calling in sick, and the one that won’t go home!

Not again! From being too hungover to work, to calling in “dead” only to return the following week as though nothing had happened, employee absences can be a pain for employers. Especially if one particular employee is a repeat offender and keeps calling in sick.

This can be costly and burdensome for small businesses (which are likely to be impacted more than a larger organisation). And it can also create conflict amongst your workforce – when people are actually sick and do need time off to recover.

The opposite to employee absenteeism has been coined “presenteeism”. This is where employees feel the need to be present at work for longer than required. We believe that this can end up being just as unproductive as absence itself.

So how do employers strike the right balance when it comes to managing their workforce? Read our top tips on how to manage both an employee who keeps calling in sick and the employee who won’t go home!

Pre-empt with a policy

Having an absence policy means that you can be fair to your business and your employees. Following a set procedure in all circumstances of employee absence sets expectations. It also creates a fair working culture for your team.

It is important to know how many days absence are taken across the company, so that excessive days off are easily spotted and dealt with.

Oversee and observe

If you are present and integrated with your team, you should start to pick up on atmosphere and energy levels. This is a good way to predict, and even counter, employee absence.

An employee with a carefree attitude and a fully-booked social calendar, which they tell everyone in the office about, could be planning to pull a sickie. If you suspect this, make sure everyone in the team is aware of your sickness policy and has access to it.

On the other hand, an employee who is frequently working late could be one more late night away from exhaustion and calling in sick. They may benefit from a helping hand – perhaps organise some time for management training.

Spot a trend before it catches on

It’s not unusual for employees to phone in to work sick to extend their weekend. And if they have done it once and succeeded, there is nothing to stop them from trying it again. You’ll want to be recording all employee absences in an HR management tool such as the HR Dept Toolkit so that you can easily identify patterns emerging.

Similarly, you can track who is and isn’t taking their holiday. Managing holiday is an important business process and is essential in preventing employee burnout.

Talk it out

Start as you mean to go on. We suggest arranging a back-to-work interview with any employee who has been absent from work due to sickness. This will let your employees know that you are keeping track of absences.

And for those that had a legitimate reason for being off? It will allow you to demonstrate you care. Your employee also gets the chance to speak confidentially about their absence and discuss any necessary support.

Separately, regular 1-2-1 meetings with your employees are a good chance to discuss all aspects of their workload and find solutions if there is a problem.

Make it formal

If you have tried all of the above, and your employee is still taking too many “duvet days”, it is time to start formal meetings to improve their attendance. It’s really not fair on the business or other staff – particularly the poor employee who you’ve been helping to cut down their long hours, who’ll be the first one to end up with extra work covering the absence.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.