As the data proves, levels of sickness within the corporate world show worrying trends of bubbling over into crisis. Whilst many organisations are struggling with ongoing economic volatility, the worrying prospect of ineffective sickness policies should be a wake-up call for those who believe the status quo hasn’t changed.
This begs the question, how can organisations augment their sickness policies to ensure they’re viable for the coming year? Once again, we turn to the CIPD’s research for guidance. The research shows that organisations are attempting to address health and wellbeing issues overall, through a range of support.
If the correct procedure is not followed, the policy should make it clear what steps will be taken if rules are abused
Most (69%) offer occupational sick pay leave schemes for all employees, while 82% provide an employee assistance programme (EAP). Overall, 53% of organisations surveyed have a stand-alone wellbeing strategy, a slight increase from the previous survey in 2021 (50%), but significantly higher than in 2019 (40%).
This is, as Kate Palmer, Employment Services Director at Peninsula tells HR Grapevine, a pressing issue for most businesses. “A strong sickness policy can be an effective tool in managing absences in the workplace – everyone knows what they need to do if they are unwell, what they will be paid for, and what might happen if they have repeated time off, which prevents conflicts and confusion among the workforce.”
Palmer notes that a sickness policy should outline the practical steps an organisation requires its staff to follow when they are unwell, including who they should contact, when, and how. “If the correct procedure is not followed, the policy should make it clear what steps will be taken if rules are abused,” she adds.
“If an organisation sets trigger points, which will look to address absences if they hit a certain level within a defined period, these should also be set out in the policy. It should also detail the process for long-term absences which will usually include the holding of a welfare meeting, obtaining medical evidence, the process for considering any reasonable adjustments, and if it comes to it, a procedure for dismissal where appropriate. Setting out the pay an employee will receive when they are unwell, whether that is SSP or contractual sick pay, is also important as it means that there are no surprises come payday,” she continues.
As with all policies, a sickness policy should be reviewed regularly to make sure that it is working well for the organisation. As Palmer asks, is it written so that everyone can understand it? Also, an organisation should consider what the overall absence levels are like in the organisation and whether the absence policy could be amended to address any specific problems identified.
“Who, for example, must an employee contact when they are unwell and how should contact be made? It is best to state that a phone call is required from an employee when reporting an absence rather than a text message or email,” she says.
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