How to deal with sickness in the workplace

Sickness in the workplace is inevitable, especially in the colder months! Cold, flu and stomach bugs spread like wildfire through your team and wreak havoc on productivity.

All this sickness can be nauseating for management as they try to effectively deal with unauthorised absences and ensure that the business can still run smoothly.

So how can you best deal with employee sickness? 

In this blog post, we’ll explore how you can manage absences in a fair and sympathetic way.

Have a policy

As a small business, there are a few things you can do to keep absences from driving you crazy. The top priority on your list should be to have a clear sickness policy in place which details how employees report an absence. This should be discussed with employees during training and then regularly updated as and when things change. It can seem harsh but it’s advised that you consider disciplinary action in the event of an employee not following the sickness policy; it is an effective way to reduce the chance of this happening again.

Be prepared 

Recurring absences aren’t uncommon, sickness bugs and the flu can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks on average. If an employee returns to work too soon before they’re fully recovered, their chance of being absent again increases significantly. If you own a business which relies heavily on a certain number of workers to be able to run, it would be beneficial for you to consider hiring a bank of staff who can cover sickness. These staff can be on a temporary basis over busy periods such as Christmas or Summer or even on a zero-hour basis where they’re called in when you require them to work.

Maintaining a healthy workforce is key to success, prevention is the best cure as they say! Jonathan Clarke, MD of Morgan Jones Recruitment Consultants has the following advice, saying that employers should encourage staff to “…take regular breaks during the working day especially taking in fresh air, using annual holiday effectively, maintaining regular one to one meetings to ensure there is an awareness of staff. A small investment in annual flu jabs and gym memberships can have a positive effect to maintain good health within the workforce.”

Stay in Touch

Whilst an employee is absent, stay in contact with them! It can be difficult not to appear pushy when addressing when an employee will return to work but it’s beneficial for both parties that a line of communication is open. When an employee is ready to return to work, you can make their transition easier by doing a number of things:

  • Conduct a ‘return to work’ meeting – this should ideally take place on their first day back to work. This is an opportunity for both parties to discuss the absence and the chance of it happening again, i.e. if it’s due to an ongoing health condition.
  • Consider adjustments – can you put procedures in place so they return to work earlier? Can you offer a phased plan, amend their duties, offer an alternative role, hold regular meetings to discuss progress with health, any issues etc?
  • Encourage communication – if an employee needs help, they’re often afraid to ask for it. You can help combat this by checking in with them once they’ve returned to work following the initial ‘return to work’ meeting to make sure they’re doing well and ask if they need any assistance from the business. Building a culture of honesty and empathy is important and will help encourage staff to reach out for help when they need it.

“In my 15 years in HR, I have found that the most effective way of dealing with sickness is to have a clear absence management policy in place. This is never going to be foolproof as absenteeism is a learning curve that develops throughout the time that you’re in business. It’s important to remember to stay human too, compassion and empathy go a long way!” – Kat Horton, Head of HR at alldayPA

According to Business Matters, Britons took 141.4 million days off work last year because of sickness or injury, equivalent to 4.4 days per worker, down from 7.2 per worker in the mid-1990s. Here at alldayPA, we offer a variety of outsourcing services that can help your business boost it’s productivity! See how we can help your business thrive.