Helen Giles, Managing Director
· Failing to check references when job offers are made. If someone has had a history of persistent intermittent absence in the past, they’ll repeat it with you. Don’t take them on in the first place.
· Failure to hold return to work interviews after every spell of sickness.
· The organisation may have triggers for the manager to hold a meeting about absence, but nobody holds the manager to account for holding the meetings.
· Excluding medically certificated absence from the triggers. The triggers should apply whatever the reason for absence.
· Not training managers to manage sickness. Role play exercises are essential as managers need to practice in safety to develop the confidence to do the real thing.
· Policies which allow the manager the discretion to say ‘No further action needed’. Action and expectations must be set at every stage.
· Not giving managers clear guidance on the length of review periods at each stage and how to express improvement expectations clearly and unambiguously.
· Policies which don’t have a ‘maintenance loop’ between the first and second stages. Where improvement is not maintained for a year after the review, the policy should be resumed at the beginning of the second stage in any case.
· Failing to explain to employees – at regular intervals, and particularly when someone is having a meeting within the terms of the policy - that the policy is not about punishment or discipline but about supporting them to attend work regularly and safely.
A word of caution. We’ve seen organisations - in a bid to manage previously excessive absence - bring in trigger levels that we consider unworkable. If you say someone hits the trigger if they have 5 days a year or 4 spells in a year, you will find people being escalated to the dismissal stage very quickly and you will find it very hard to justify to a Tribunal. We have found that 10 days or more in a 12-month period or 3 spells or more in a 3-month rolling period to be appropriate and fair.