Many businesses are unsure of how to deal with employees who are frequently absent and the cost of workplace absence continues to grow. Last year the estimated cost for British business was £18 billion.
The effects of persistent short-term absenteeism can be seen in many ways e.g. on profitability and employee morale.
There may be genuine reasons for persistent short-term absences, for example, minor unconnected ailments such colds and stomach upsets or family issues such as childcare problems. However, there may be employees who take advantage of the self-certification scheme and abuse such arrangements.
There usually comes a time when an employer is entitled to say ‘enough is enough’.
Employers should ensure that someone speaks to an employee after every absence. This will give the employee the chance to discuss any problems they may be having, whether they are work-related or, for example, domestic.
It is always vital that an employer provides clear and easily understood instructions to the employee as to what improvements regarding their attendance are required. A failure to do so may render any subsequent dismissal unfair. Consultation is always essential in establishing fairness in the event of any future dismissal and consequent claim for unfair dismissal.
Should an employer decide to terminate the employees’ employment, they should remember that any employee with a continuous period of service of two years or more will be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim. It is therefore important for employers to show that the reason for dismissal is fair and to be aware of the potential impact on any decision regarding the rights and legal protection offered by the Equality Act 2010.
The Equality Act 2010 states that an underlying illness or reoccurring condition may fall within the definition of disability and in such cases, there will be a legal obligation on the employer to consider making reasonable adjustments which could help the employee stay in employment.
For this reason, it is vital for employers to have systems, policies and procedures in place to establish the reasons for continued absenteeism and to assess whether they could indicate a disability.