Many employers report an increase in the number of sickness absences amongst their employees in January and February each year.  So how can an employer distinguish between an employee who has the January blues following a Christmas of excesses and one who is genuinely sick ?  Set out below are some top tips to enable you to make this distinction and to manage your employees’ sickness absence more effectively.

  • Make it clear in your employees contracts and staff handbooks that any false information given on a self certification form will lead to disciplinary proceedings being instituted against the employee and that disciplinary sanctions could include summary dismissal for gross misconduct.
  • Reserve the contractual right to require employees to undergo a medical examination with the company doctor at the company’s expense.  The clause should be drafted in such a way that it constitutes a consent on the employee’s behalf for the medical report to be disclosed to relevant personnel within the company.
  • Reserve the contractual right to require an employee to attend a return to work interview with HR in circumstances in which HR believes that the employee has pulled a sickie as opposed to being genuinely unwell.  The purpose of the return to work interview would be for HR to decide whether or not disciplinary proceedings should be instituted against the employee.
  • Consider making contractual sick pay entirely discretionary or alternatively for contractual sick pay to become discretionary after an employee has had a short period of sickness absence, perhaps five or ten working days. If an employee believes that he may only receive statutory sick pay whilst on sick leave, this should focus his attention on recovering and returning to work as speedily as possible.
  • Employers should reserve the contractual right to withhold, discontinue or request repayment of contractual sick pay if the company is satisfied that:
  • the employee has not complied with the company’s sickness notification requirements or has misrepresented his or her health; or
  • if in the company doctor’s opinion the employee is well enough to attend work; or
  • if the employee behaves in a manner likely to retard his recovery.

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