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An employee keeps calling in sick, what should I do?

An employee keeps calling in sick, what should I do?

An employee keeps calling in sick, what should I do?

The classic ‘sickie’. It’s part of New Zealand working folklore, and while most people can honestly admit to ‘chucking’ the occasional sickie, others can stretch the limits of their employers by frequently taking sick days for vague or elusive reasons. In some cases it can get to the point where they are no longer reliably showing up to work.

Sick leave is a legitimate entitlement, and many people genuinely need that time to manage their health or chronic conditions — both mental and physical. In those cases employees should be fully supported via the applicable employment entitlements.

But what if you suspect an employee is misusing their sick leave?

Statistics from the Wellness in the Workplace Report conducted by BusinessNZ found that an absent employee typically costs their employer $600 to $1,000 per year, and ‘sickies’ typically account for 303,000 lost days of work each year.

Sick leave misuse can become a serious business issue if left unchecked. Let’s take a look at Sick Leave, and what you can do to make sure it’s being used properly.

Know Your Current Obligations

All of your employees are entitled to sick leave once they complete six months of current and continuous employment with you, or if they have worked for you for six months with an average of 10 hours per week and at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.

The provision of five days a year, in most cases, is for your employees to be able to care for themselves, their spouse or partner, or their dependants should they fall ill. A dependant is typically a  dependent child, or anyone who genuinely depends on the employee for care.

Have a robust Sick Leave Policy

The stronger your policies around sick leave, the less likely staff are to misuse it. In many cases, it might be appropriate to have staff verbally inform their managers if they intend to take a sick day (texts or emails don’t cut it) and explain when a medical certificate may be required.

Making employees accountable for their sick days makes them think twice about misusing it. And for staff who genuinely need the time off, meeting these parameters shouldn’t be a problem.

Need a hand developing and delivering a Sick Leave Policy for your workplace? Give us a call.

Document everything

If your aim is to potentially take action against an employee who is taking frivolous sick days, then suspicion alone isn’t enough. Acting on a hunch can leave you exposed.

Keep records of sick days, any documents the employee provides, take notes of any conversations and keep any correspondence so you can identify any patterns in behaviour and build evidence to take legitimate action.

Start the conversation

“Hi John/Jane, I noticed that you’ve been taking a lot of time off sick lately. Have you been feeling ok?”

With a sentence as simple as that, you can start an honest and open conversation with an employee about their sick leave, and their health more generally.

There may be legitimate underlying reasons for the employee taking such frequent sick days. Perhaps they are caring for someone, or going through a treatment that leaves them feeling unwell. Perhaps there is a mental health or relationship problem they haven’t felt comfortable raising with you. In those cases other leave options could be made available to them, or even flexible working arrangements that could allow them to manage their workload and hours differently without taking sick leave at all.

While policy and procedure give you a framework to follow, sometimes a more personal and gentler approach can do the trick.

While serial sick days can be a frustration for employers, you do have options and tools to make sure your business isn’t unnecessarily impacted.

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