Managing absence

A Guide to Tackling the World Cup in the Workplace

By Managing absence

The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia from14th June to 15th July with matches and commentary running throughout the working day and into the evening.

As an employer you need to consider the impact that such a high- profile sporting event may have on your business and put in place a strategy to minimise any disruptions.

Firstly, you need know the dates and times of the matches, especially those featuring UK teams or other favourites likes Brasil, Spain and Italy.

You can find a full breakdown of fixtures, starting with the group stages here:

The schedule sees most matches in the early stages starting mid-afternoon throughout the week and weekends with the final on Sunday 15 July.

World Cup & Work Commitments

A proportion of your staff will want to watch some or all matches but may be unable to do so due to work commitments. As a result, employers are likely to find themselves dealing with increased demand for time off, lateness, absenteeism, bleary eyed staff staying up past their normal bedtimes, and poor productivity during the tournament.

So, what can you do to minimise disruption in your workplace?  Start by planning ahead, assess the interest, know which members of your staff are football fans, know the fixture list and identify the most popular matches. You should then discuss your approach with your staff in a positive way and where possible accommodate requests for leave.

The aim is to maintain effective employer/employee relations and discourage employees from taking ‘sickies’. It is important to note that any requests must be balanced against the needs of the business.  There is no right solution but some options to consider include:-

  • Holiday requests
  • Flexible working hours
  • Shift swaps
  • Unpaid leave
  • Special screening of matches on premises if appropriate.

Requests for Time Off

When considering requests for time off, employers should act fairly, consistently and follow their own procedures.  If more employees want time off than can be granted, consider granting leave on a ‘first come first served’ basis or by using a rota system.  Any decision should also be based on non-discriminatory criteria, which should explained to and understood by staff.

If employees do not have sufficient holiday entitlement, then unpaid leave or making up ‘lost’ hours could be another solution.

Screening in the Workplace

Some employers are happy to bring the World Cup in to the workplace allowing employees to watch matches on a big screen in a meeting room for example, on the internet or listening to them on the radio.

Employees must be reminded that Company policies still apply e.g. What are the Company rules re gambling?  Is a sweep stake permitted?  You should also make it clear that aggressive or racist language and or behavior is not permitted and is potentially deemed as gross misconduct.

It must be made clear that breaches of Company policy and ruleswould lead to the privilege being withdrawn and disciplinary action could be taken against the employees involved.

Managing Absent Employees

If an employee turns up for work late or is believed to be under the influence of alcohol then the employer’s normal disciplinary procedures should be followed.

An employee who has been refused leave, or who does not believe leave will be granted, may not turn up for work, or call in sick. While the above circumstances are likely to raise suspicions, employers should take care not to jump to conclusions. They should carry out an investigation into any unauthorised absence before disciplinary action is considered.  A return to work interview or the requirement to produce medical evidence could act as a deterrent to abuse.

Planning in Advance

Finally, as with most things “failing to plan is planning to fail” so by taking the time to plan employers can take the hassle out of any issues of absence during the World Cup and even use it to maintain and improve staff morale.

If you don’t have the policies or procedures in place to manage any of the actions recommended, then HCHR can help.  Just call us today on the number below and we will help put your mind at rest.


Managing employee absenteeism during the flu season

By Managing absence

AbsenteeismThe flu season is well and truly upon us with predictions for the rest of this winter at all-time high. According to the Guardian: “Although flu cases are higher than at any point since 2010/11,  health officials say it is still not an epidemic.”

Unfortunately, even though there are many genuine cases of employees suffering from flu and needing necessary time off work to recover, there can be just as many cases of employees jumping on the ‘flu’ bandwagon just to get a bit more time off work!  The result for business owners is an impact on productivity which in turn can affect staff morale, as the pressure mounts on those still at work to meet essential deadlines.

Impact of absenteeism during the flu season

It’s always a dilemma for business owners when it comes to encouraging employees to come to work with minor bugs.  The goal is to achieve the right balance between sickness absence management and presenteeism, which is when an employee comes to work feeling under the weather and so does not function properly.

Minor illnesses such as cold, coughs and the flu account for as much as 30% of sick days in the UK, and so are the most common reasons of absenteeism from the workplace.

Employers need to take a pro-active and preventative approach when it comes to educating their staff on how prevent getting ill during the winter season and what your expectations are if they do fall sick. For people who may vulnerable to getting the flu, you should encourage them to have an annual flu vaccine offered by all GP practices.

Some pharmacy chains, like Lloyds Pharmacy, offer larger organisations the opportunity to set up a flu vaccine clinic in the workplace whilst Boots offers corporate businesses in-store flu vaccinations for free.

Avoiding the spread of flu

Flu is very different from a cold.  Many people claim they have flu when in reality they are just suffering from a common cold.  Identifying whether an employee does have flu may not be easy if they hide the symptoms from you. However, anyone genuinely suffering from flu will be feeling very, very poorly and unable to work productively.  So, if you believe an employee is suffering from flu, you should always encourage them to go home and recover or they could find themselves becoming even more sick as well as the running the risk of the illness spreading throughout your workforce.

You can’t do much to stop people catching colds; you can however do as much as possible to stop the bug from spreading. Remind people about hygiene basics such as washing their hands and providing sanitisers in washrooms.

The objective for every business owner is ensure all their employees are working to capacity.  Ignoring flu symptoms in the workplace is not the best way to deal with potential absenteeism.  You should encourage proper recovery and, if necessary, make a small investment as outlined above to help with prevention to stop a single case of flu from spreading throughout your team which in turn will impact on your business.

Effective absenteeism management

Employers generally need to be sensitive and understanding when dealing with employees suffering from flu; but they also need to be discerning when it comes to minimising the impact of sickness absence through robust data based information. It is well publicised that short term absences have much more of a detrimental effect on the business that long terms absences.

When an employee phones into work saying they have flu, managers need to follow their in-house sickness and absence policy, including return to work interviews once the staff member comes back. If an employee is off for just one day, then the chances are that they are don’t have flu but could just fancy a day off!!!

A data-based absence management system will show an employer patterns of behaviour among individuals and teams and identifying any repeat offenders who take Mondays and Fridays off on a regular basis.  With accurate data, the employer has a case to question the offending employee about his or her absence levels and even, if necessary, issue a warning to that employee regarding absence levels.

The reason that return to work interview are so important is mainly because it’s easy to hide behind a phone call but harder to lie face-to-face. An interview may also flag up any underlying issues such as stress or family problems which then make the absences easier to understand and to deal with.

Free E-book

HCHR has developed an e-book, entitled ‘Managing Short Term Absence – A Guide for Managers and Business Owners ‘, which is free to download from our website (click here).

If you need more information about managing absence in the workplace, you can call HCHR today for a free consultation on the number below:



Managing Absence in the Workplace Case Study

By Managing absence, Policies and Procedures

Absence Management

Short term absences can actually have a far more substantial impact on a business than a long term illness. This may sound strange but with a long term absence you have a pretty good idea of the length of time the employee will be off.  So as an employer, you can therefore plan for that person’s absence.

However, someone who decides to have a Monday or a Friday off, that’s really hard actually to plan around as it’s an ‘on the day’ event. For example, if someone works for three weeks and then is off a week, that has far more impact on the business than if someone was off for four consecutive weeks.

 The team at HCHR is often invited by South West Wales business owners to help manage all types of absences including organisations operating in the voluntary sector, who are not exempt from employees ‘chucking a sickie’ in order to manage a day off here and there.

Director Shakira Joyner, shares a typical absence management scenario involving a third sector company needing to deal with short term absence.

 Absence Management – Third Sector Case Study

The organisation approached HCHR for advice and guidance when facing an issue of persistent short-term absenteeism by one of their employees, Daisy.  Daisy had been with the organization for 10 years but recently her poor attendance had become a cause of concern.  Her manager was worried about dealing with the problem and any potential disability discrimination issues which may arise. Her manager had discussed the matter informally with Daisy, who stated that the reason for the absence was tiredness, the odd cold, headaches and more recently back pain.

HCHR’s CIPD qualified HR advisor, in discussion with the organisation’s Directors, advised that since the informal approach had been exhausted, should Daisy’s attendance continue to fall below the standard expected they would have no choice but to make the sickness absence management process formal.

 HCHR Intervention

At the start of the following week, Daisy called in sick again, but this time she was signed off from work for four weeks, which is classified as long-term sick.  As part of the sickness management process, HCHR wrote to Daisy to arrange to visit her at her home to discuss the reasons behind her latest period of sickness absence and to see what reasonable adjustments can be made to support her return to work.

At the meeting Daisy was advised that under her contract of employment, she was obliged to agree to attend an Occupational Health appointment or medical examination. Daisy agreed the request for a medical report from her GP to enable us to see if there was anything we could do to help in eliminating or reducing her absence levels.

Daisy’s GP advised in writing ways that organisation could assist Daisy, including suggesting reasonable adjustments, such as reduced hours, regular breaks to walk around and a full workplace assessment to ensure that her workstation was ergonomically correct.

Following the medical advice, it was agreed that these adjustments would be made, on a trial basis.

Return to Work

Upon Daisy’s return to work, HCHR met with her to discuss her recent absence, adjustments and also her high sickness absence levels in general. Daisy stated that her sickness record was nothing to do with work but a combination of issues; she acknowledged that she understood that her sickness absence was high and that she needed to make improvements to remedy this.

Despite the adjustments being put in place, the situation did not improve and within two weeks Daisy was once again certified absent from work again for a further 4-week period by her GP.  This time she was referred to the hospital for investigation of the cause of her back pain.

The same sickness process was followed, with representatives from the organization keeping in regular, weekly contact with Daisy and HCHR attending home visits as before. Further information was requested from Daisy’s GP about her prognosis and, following receipt of her updated GP report, Daisy was invited to a formal capability meeting to discuss the content.

Equality Act 2010

At the meeting Daisy said that she continued to feel unwell, that her mobility was greatly affected by her condition which was also affecting her daily life. These were all signs that Daisy could be classified as having a protected characteristic and satisfy the test as suffering from a disability as determined by the Equality Act 2010.

The updated GP report confirmed that Daisy was on strong painkillers from the hospital and was waiting to see a consultant with a view to undergoing surgery. Daisy had by now exhausted her SSP entitlement and her condition appeared to be getting worse rather than better.

A further absence capability meeting was scheduled to discuss the GP report and the likelihood of Daisy’s return. At the meeting, following detailed discussion, Daisy made the decision that she was unable to fulfill her contract of employment, even with the adjustments suggested by the organisation, and resigned due to ill health.

Absence Management Outcome

HCHR’s assistance meant that the organisation did not leave itself open to undue risk under equality and disability legislation, and in particular the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Professional medical evidence was obtained to allow fair treatment and appropriate decision making. This approach ensured that the Sickness Absence and the Capability Policies were both followed, along with ACAS best practice.

Employees Incapable of Work

To find out more about how to deal with employees incapable of work, check out this video by Shakira Joyner below:


If you are facing similar issues within your workplace, call HCHR today on the number below for a free ½ hour telephone consultation:

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Why Return to Work Interviews Are So Important

By Human Resources, Managing absence

interview-meeting-stockDoes your company conduct return to work interviews when a member of staff has been off sick? A surprising number of business owners don’t do so, even though many of them will have been paying that member of staff while they were away from the workplace.

The main reasons that employers put off conducting return to work interviews include the fact that they claim to trust their employees and don’t want to interrogate them; they think it takes up too much management time; or they don’t have anyone suitable to carry out the interview.

In truth, too many businesses don’t have a process in place to manage return to work interviews and as a result don’t have a consistent or fair approach with employees. Others just get employees to fill a form in.

Conducting a Return To Work Interview

These reasons demonstrate that employers can have a misunderstanding of the nature of return to work interviews. They should not be confrontational or accusatory, and should assume the employee was genuinely ill. The point is not to undermine the employee’s argument or make him or her slip up and admit they had a hangover; it’s to have a record of the sickness, acknowledge that you’ve taken the time to note it and to identify any underlying problems

With the correct forms and processes in place, a return to work interview shouldn’t take longer than 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The interviews should be completed for every single absence and so any accusations of inconstancy will be null and void.

Why have Return to Work Interviews?

They are necessary for good housekeeping in your workplace and to help keep a track on the comings and goings of employees. Though you may have absence records on file, the interview will enable you to see what is behind the absence, if there are potential long term or underlying issues and to enable you to identify any trends.

From a motivational point of view, there’s evidence that companies that conduct return to work interviews experience a reduction in sickness absence. Why? Firstly, it shows that you are taking absence seriously and that your company is taking some sort of action when it comes to absence.
Secondly, there’s no getting away from the “fear factor”. Some employees, who might in the past have taken the odd day off when they simply couldn’t be bothered to come to work, might be wary of being “found out” if they slip up in the interview by contradicting their original cover story.

Companies don’t demand doctors’ fit notes if the absence is for seven days or fewer, so it’s good to have a record of why the employee was off so you can judge whether the reason seems justifiable or not.

Finally, at the other end of the scale, the issue you will also be able to identify whether someone is in work when they should be off or if they have returned to work too soon after a sickness period. You may have employees who have been off sick start to worry that they have been off too long, and come back before they’re really ready to do so. A sensitive return to work interview can make sure that this isn’t the case and offer reassurance that the employee’s job is not at risk because they have been genuinely ill.

Return to Work Interviews Best Practice

To maintain best practice in return to work interviews, employers should ensure that employees understand that this is an official process and that the company takes a consistent approach to all absences. Don’t rush the interview but don’t drag it out either; as long as the documentation is all in place and the employee is ready to return to work, then the interview should be swift and accurate.

Most importantly, be prepared; ensure you have all the relevant paperwork, absence dates and details of the employee’s sickness history so you have the information required to complete the interview properly. It’s also important to show sensitivity, particularly if the employee has been off with a long term problem.

As soon as you discover an employee is absent, start planning for their return-to-work interview. Obviously you won’t know what day they will be coming back, but preparing the form on first notification of absence will make sure you’re ready to go when they return.

Listen to what the employee says and take accurate notes on why they have had time off. What they say is important and having a record of it could save you problems down the line, especially if there is a long-term issue.

Timing and Location of Return to Work Interviews

The interview should be conducted as soon as possible after the employee returns. They might have vital tasks to perform when they get back, from safety tasks to briefing subordinates or being briefed if there’s a handover procedure; but try and get the interview done as soon as is practicable so they can answer the questions while the absence is fresh in their mind.

The practices must apply to everyone. If anyone takes time off sick, they must have the interview with the same conditions as everyone else. Letting some employees get away with it can lead to accusations or even tribunals.

Employees’ personal medical information is confidential and you have a duty to protect it. Conduct interviews in a private space where no other employees or visitors can hear what is being said. Also, you need to keep the interview notes in a safe, secure place (if on paper) or in a secure digital location. Treat the interview itself sensitively and don’t pressure employees into revealing things they’re uncomfortable with.

Make sure both the interviewer and the interviewee both sign the return to work sheet so you have an accurate record of the absence, which can be helpful if there is a pattern or if similar illnesses occur in the future.

HR Support

Return to work interviews can be a painless experience if you have a procedure in place and you stick to it. These interviews give you valuable data that can help your health and safety policies, and since they can help to reduce frivolous absences, the small amount of time spent on them will more than cover itself.

Shakira Joyner, Managing Director at hchr, explains more:

If you don’t have a return to work policy or interview form in place, or if you don’t have the personnel to conduct these interviews, then call HCHR today. We have experience in working with a number of SME’s to develop these tools as well as conducting interviews on behalf of employers.

Call us on the number below for a free 30 minute telephone consultation:

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Flexibility and Compassion in the Workplace

By Human Resources Specialists Policies & Procedures, Managing absence

Policy and ProcedureFlexibility and compassion in the workplace allows employers and employees to make arrangements about working conditions that suit them. This helps employees maintain a work/life balance and can help employers improve the productivity and efficiency of their business.

As long as employees are still receiving their statutory entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible.

Flexible Working Arrangements

All employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements and employers can only refuse these requests on reasonable business grounds.

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to working hours or patterns of work (eg split shifts or finish times) or the option to work from home.

Action by Employers

Employers who receive a request can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Reasonable business grounds can include an increased financial burden on the business including a significant loss of productivity or have a negative impact on customer service.  It’s also deemed reasonable to refuse the request if it is impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request

Employers don’t have to choose immediately between accepting or rejecting a request in full. Once a request has been made, it’s advisable to discuss this with the employee in order to come to an arrangement that balances everyone’s needs.

Compassion in the Workplace

In many instances, to reach an agreement about flexible working, employers need to take a compassionate approach to employee requests.  In fact, research suggests that a compassionate workplace increases employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Unfortunately, some business owners firmly believe compassion has no place in the business world. While some fear that showing too much kindness could be perceived as weakness, others think pressure—not compassion—is the only way to keep employees productive.

But a worker who feels cared for at work or during any form of absence is more likely to experience positive emotion, which in turn helps to foster positive work relationships, increased cooperation, and better customer relations.

Most employers care about their employee and their instinct is to help; however, if the request for flexible working is driving the business down, you may not be able to help. Business owners need to balance these sometimes-competing interests, and that’s not often easy.

How hchr can help

Hchr is a team of HR experts, working with SME’s to put in place flexible working arrangements for the future benefit of the business and its employees.  Managing Director, Shakira Joyner, explains more:

If you’re struggling to come to mutually beneficial agreements for flexible working agreements, then call us today on the number below:

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How to Manage Employee Absence due to Sickness

By Human Resources, Managing absence, Policies and Procedures

Policy and ProcedureSome absence from the workplace due to sickness is inevitable within all sizes of organisations.  What is of vital importance is for employers to deal with sickness absence in a fair, understanding and sympathetic way.

Unfortunately, absence can be costly; it has an adverse effect upon colleagues and on the level and quality of service that an organisation provides. Effective monitoring of all forms of absence and a consistency of approach are essential if absence levels are to be managed. A company’s absence management procedure should not be confused with a disciplinary procedure.  Only absence not due to genuine illness should be dealt with through a disciplinary process.

It’s also important to record all sick leave; not only to manage employees who are off sick appropriately, but also to identify trends or causes for concern.

Who is responsible for managing absence?

Line Managers (supervisors, section heads, etc.) are usually best placed to manage absence in their areas of responsibility.

Every employee has a responsibility to attend work when she/he is fit to do so.  Staff will also have a responsibility, which would normally be included in their contract of employment, to contact their employer as early as possible on the first day of absence; and no later than the normal start of work or shift start time.

From an employer’s perspective, this is important as alternative arrangements (to ensure that all necessary work is covered) can be put into place.

Employers who are absent for up to three calendar days are not required to provide evidence of incapacity. For absences that extend to a fourth day and lasts up to seven calendar days, a self-certification form should be completed and returned to the employer.

Doctor’s certificate (fit note) is required if an absence extends over seven calendar days.  In most instances, until a doctor’s certificate is received by an employer, then the employee has a responsibility to inform their employer on a daily basis of any continuing absence.

If employees don’t comply with these reporting requirements, then the period of absence could be treated as unauthorised absence, resulting in sick payments being withheld.

Communicating with Sick Employees

Many employers will have a policy in place with regard to staying in touch with sick employees.  If an employee is entitled to company sick pay or statutory sick pay then he or she must keep in touch with an appointed person.

It’s advisable to arrange for contact calls to be made on a pre-agreed day and time to cause the least amount of stress to the employee.

Shakira Joyner, Director at hchr, explains this process in the video below:

Sickness absence and annual leave

Annual leave continues to accrue during periods of sickness absence.

An employee who falls sick during a period of annual leave, may claim back their annual leave. In order to claim back any period of annual leave, the employee must, unless there are exceptional circumstances, report their illness to their employer on the first day of their illness.

The employee must also, regardless of the duration of the illness, provide documentary evidence which would normally be a statement from a doctor or a hospital covering the entire period of sickness during the annual leave.

Some employers may also require details of and the duration of the illness and they reserve the right to raise further queries about the documentary evidence. Annual leave (and any associated sick pay) will only be available for any period covered by a medical statement. Annual leave may only be claimed back due to sickness absence if the employee would have been unfit to do their job. Annual leave cannot be claimed back where an employee could have come to work but their illness has infringed on their enjoyment of their holiday, for example a sprained ankle on a skiing holiday.

Return to work

Employers must be notified of an intended return to work after a period of absence.  It is best practice to ensure that, every employee returning from a period of absence, whatever the duration, to have a return to work meeting with the employer or a line manager.

The purpose of the return to work meeting is to welcome the employee back to work, ensuring they are fully fit to return (check that the employee has been signed off by their own doctor or consultant).  This is also the opportunity to identify the reason for the absence, confirm the length of the absence and, most importantly, discuss and identify any adjustments to the work place, duties or hours which may reduce or eliminate future absences.  This is also an opportunity to identify and address any problems (work related or otherwise) that may be causing or contributing to the absence

The general purpose of the interview is to establish the facts and see if any action may be taken to reduce or eliminate future absence. This return to work meeting is not a disciplinary interview and discussions between an employee and their employer or manager should be kept confidential so far as reasonably possible.

Policies and Procedures

If you’re an employer who is concerned about absence due to sickness in the workplace, and to ensure that you have the correct policies and procedures in place to manage absence, then hchr can help.  We have a dedicated team, experienced in working with organisations from a range of business sectors to manage their absence and sickness policies and processes.

Just call us on the number below for a free, 30 minute consultation:


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Out of Office

By Human Resources, Managing absence

Lauren BayleyWe have all faced the Monday morning not-had-coffee-yet struggle, it’s human nature and is manageable so long as the “up and at ‘em Mondays” make a guest appearance from time to time too.

The cold fact is absences, for whatever reason, are costly for businesses, both large and small. Not just in terms of productivity, but also in terms of managing the absence, spreading the workload among existing staff or finding temporary cover.

Short-term sickness absence can be anything from a day, to an absence lasting just less than a month. Whilst as employers we appreciate that of course everyone gets ill from time to time, when these absences quickly mount up in a succession of 2 days here and the odd day there, 5 times a year, it can get expensive, counter productive and well let’s be honest, as a business owner…frustrating.

Frequent Absence

Frequent sickness absences, especially when there is a pattern, can have a significant impact on your business, relationships with customers and not to mention the impact on the morale of those members of staff who stoically turn up day after day to give their all.

For the good of both the employer and the employee all sickness absences need to be managed and effective communication is key to this… From the point of view of fulfilling your duty of care to your employee there may be underlying issues that are affecting the employee e.g. working conditions, or even bullying in the workplace which not forgetting falls within the Equality Act 2010 (i.e. discrimination). If you as employers are not mindful of this, then you could find yourselves in hot expensive water.

Obviously the above is referring to the frequent, unplanned and potentially patterned absences… wearing my pessimistic hat, those struck down with mystery unrelated illness every Monday or every other Friday afternoon.

But surely we can’t do anything about that? It’s a well-enshrined ritual that Jack and Jill don’t turn up on the 3rd Thursday of every month, I hear you say?

Key Points

Wrong. Sporadic sickness absence CAN be managed. The key points to remember are:

  1. Have a Policy
  2. Use your policy – your company handbook is not just for propping up the side of the bookcase
  3. Communicate the standard of attendance expected
  4. Keep the lines of communication open
  5. Give hchr a call!!

How can we help you?

The golden thread that runs through business is knowing when to ask for help and advice. Managing any form of absence can be a dangerous minefield, which can trip up even the most diligent of employers. The fine line between management and avoiding the issue can get rather hazy amidst the day to day running of your business, we understand that – we understand you – but remember this – in order for a business to be productive, you need your staff.

human resources specialists

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