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How Employers Can Identify Fake Sick Days

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As a business owner or manager, solving workplace issues is a major part of the job, but some issues are harder to address than others and employee absenteeism can be the toughest of all to deal with. Oftentimes, employers feel that there is not a lot that they can do when an employee fakes an illness, legally or otherwise. But is this true? Whilst employers have to tread carefully, there are some things that can be done to identify why staff take fake sick days and how to prevent it from becoming a habit.

Identifying Where The Problem Lies

“If there is a culture of pulling a sickie at work, the employer needs to nip it in the bud quickly,” says Kieran McKeown, MD of Matrix Recruitment. “Sick days cost money, reduce productivity and if they’re not legitimate, may indicate that there are underlying issues within the organisation that need to be addressed.

“If staff can’t bring themselves to attend work (remotely or to the office), the employer should be looking for a cause. Consider all the options, including the possibility that you are to blame. Are you treating staff right, are workloads appropriate? Is the work culture positive? Is there a bully on the roster? or is it simply an external problem?” says the Matrix Recruitment MD. “Communication is key when it comes to ensuring that employees don’t engage in fake sick days. Having an open line of communication with employees will ensure that workloads are manageable and that everyone feels supported and appreciated in their roles,” says the Matrix Recruitment MD.

Open communications with employees will also ensure that they feel comfortable bringing up other workplace issues such as bullying and harassment or stress, anxiety, and depression – issues that can typically lead to staff absenteeism.

Identifying A Pattern Of ‘Sickness’

Making note of sick days amongst staff may help employers spot a pattern of sick leave and identify staff members who may need extra support.

“Making a note of sick days can identify more serious issues with staff members. If an employee had a bad day in work prior to calling in sick, there may be more to the bogus sick day than just wanting time away from the office,” warns Kieran McKeown of Matrix Recruitment.

Have they been isolating themselves recently? Staff who feel stressed at work can become distant or quiet and may call in sick in order to escape the 9-5 rat race. The same is true for those who are being bullied in the workplace or are simply feeling unmotivated.

The Morning After The Night Before

Of course, not all staff ‘fake a sickie’ due to personal or professional problems, oftentimes, those who want a last-minute day off work will do so around major events in their personal life, such as a birthday or during a major sporting event or festival.

Hangovers are a common cause of ‘sickie’ days, with our survey revealing that 24% of bogus illnesses are due to too many drinks the night before.

Employers may be able to identify a pattern to an employee’s sick days if they have a habit of calling in ‘ill’ on Mondays or Fridays, or during good weather.

In these instances, employee policies are important. As an employer, it’s up to you to ensure that you have a strong sickness policy in place and knows what to do when a staff member calls in sick.

Wording on contracts should require employees to submit a medical certificate upon their return to work and to make any contractual (but not statutory) sick pay conditional on their doing so. This may be enough to deter those who would take advantage of sick leave.

Are Duvet Days The Answer to Sick Days?

A ‘duvet day’ is an unscheduled but approved day off that an employee can take without notice which can have many positive benefits for a company.

The idea of a duvet day proves to employees that bosses understand that sometimes you just need a day off without forewarning and can garner respect from staff.

The idea of calling in a ‘duvet day’ also removes the problem of employees lying in order to get out of work, creating a culture of honesty in the workplace.

Businesses and companies that include duvet days as a perk may have a more positive workforce, as employees feel like they are appreciated and understood more. This positivity can, in turn, boost productivity as well as help retain and attract more skilled employees.

Open communications with employees will ensure that they feel comfortable bringing up other workplace issues such as bullying and harassment or stress, anxiety, and depression – issues that can typically lead to staff absenteeism.