Carefully monitoring sickness absence from the workplace helps lessen the impact of sickies, says HR Team co-director Martina McAuley.

The first Monday in February may mark ‘National Sickie Day’ in many quarters, but unnecessary short-term absence from the workplace is something employers count the cost of throughout the year.

And it’s very difficult for employers to know whether or not a sickness is genuine. Among the most common sickies are alcohol induced ‘Monday blues’ or the day after a Bank Holiday weekend.

Ms McAuley, says: “When sickness is not genuine, it affects organisations financially while also impacting on staff morale and efficiency.

 “Of course, employers should have policies that encourage staff to take time off when they are feeling sick. Employees who come to work sick, risk prolonging their suffering, are less productive and increase the likelihood of colleagues becoming sick as well.”

However, she advises a number of steps employers can take to minimise ‘sickies’.

“It’s best to start with a discreet, informal word with the employee in question, to ascertain the reason for sick leave.

“The next step is to hold a formal return to work interview immediately following the period of absence. This has proven to be the single most effective way to keep non-genuine sickness absence at bay.

“Even if an employee is only absent for one day, we strongly advise that a return to work interview takes place. This allows for a simple review of previous interviews to reveal any patterns in an employee’s sickness history.”

Ms McAuley says employers are best advised to have a clear policy in place in relation to both short and long-term absence.

“When issuing contracts of employment and staff handbooks, the sections dealing with absenteeism should be pointed out to new starts. As a result, employees will be clear on what is required of them regarding this issue and employers will reduce the potential for workplace grievances later on.

“If the absence is not a genuine one, disciplinary action can also be taken. This should always be a last resort, where informal action has not been successful.”