Talking to clients, we are only too aware of how disruptive absence can be for a business, whether it’s due to sickness or child care.
Not a week goes by when we don’t receive a call from a business owner or manager who has been let down at short notice by an employee. Of course, everyone accepts that at some point all of us will need to take time off work, possibly at short notice, due to illness, an issue with childcare or because of some other domestic problem we need to deal with during working hours. The reason for absence may well be genuine but employers must deal with the impact that absence has on their business. The reason being, that high absence levels can impact on your other employees, reduce morale, increase your costs, impede your business or services and ultimately lead to client or service user dissatisfaction.
Additionally, we also take calls from employers who have the problem of presenteeism to deal with. This is when an employee insists on being present at work yet appears to be struggling due to ill health. In these circumstances, the employee may benefit from taking time off but often their financial circumstances don’t allow it, particularly if they are not entitled to sick pay. Where the employee is trying so hard to attend work it’s often much more difficult to address the situation. At times like this, you may want to consider light duties (such as reduced hours) or explore more permanent adjustments in the workplace. Presenteeism can also have a negative impact on your other employees and your business in much the same way that absenteeism does.
For clients of Spectra HR, your Employee Handbooks contain a policy and guidelines for managing sickness absence in your business. Absence from work should only be recorded as sickness absence when the reason relates specifically to the health of your employee and their own fitness for work. Whatever the reason for absence, employers are entitled to expect that employees will report their absence in the correct way and provide the appropriate certification in a timely manner. If you think you would benefit from support to manage absenteeism or presenteeism, either with letter drafting or on-site support with meetings then please do contact us on 0161 926 8519.
Statutory Parental Leave
We all appreciate that juggling childcare and work, especially during the summer holidays can be a challenge for working parents. However, employees should not expect to be able to just “drop in” to work when they feel like it, blaming childcare issues as a reason for being off work. Employees have a responsibility to plan childcare in advance and, unless using their own holidays, have a statutory right to book parental leave (subject to having 1 years’ service.) Employees are obliged to give 21 days’ notice and are entitled to take 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave, per child, up to their 18th birthday (the equivalent of 1 week per year.) Employees are entitled to return to the same job, unless the period of parental leave taken is longer than 4 weeks.
Flexible Working Rights
Any employee (subject to having 26 weeks’ service) is entitled to apply for flexible working. Technically this is a request to vary contractual hours/days on a permanent basis, but an employee may also request to change their hours on a temporary basis, to accommodate child care during school holidays. An employer can refuse a request if it does not suit the needs of the business, but the law is very specific on the grounds by which an application can be refused.
Time Off for Dependants and Domestic Issues
All employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off for dependants. This will usually be in order to deal with an emergency, such as a break down in childcare or to make other arrangements if their child is ill. This should only be for around 2 days maximum and is unpaid.
With regards to domestic issues, we know that these problems don’t ever occur at a convenient time and often time off work is unavoidable. However, issues such as a car problem or broken boiler or even a sick pet should where possible be dealt with outside working hours or at the weekend.
Absence Without Leave (AWOL)
Employees who do not turn up for work, and do not follow the absence reporting process are deemed to be AWOL and as such can be managed via your disciplinary process.