As an employer, you may have noticed how difficult Winter can be when it comes to staff absence rates. Of course, this season sees so many bugs flourish, with bacterial and viral infections spreading quickly between employees and rendering many of them off sick for several days – or worse, if it’s flu – several weeks!
This can be a difficult issue to tackle. According to the ONS, minor illnesses (such as coughs and colds) were the most common reason for sickness absence in the UK from data in 2016. This accounted for 34.0 million days lost (24.8% of the total days lost). Of course, you can’t force your staff in if they are ill, and you appreciate how nasty some of these infections really are and as a caring employer, you want to help and minimise disruption where possible – so what can be done?
⦁ Make the sickness absence policy clear – You should ensure your employees know how to report in when they are sick in the morning, in order to minimise disruption that day. Perhaps you should tell staff to call in by 8am, or to send an email with any important instructions if required. You should also set out how many sick days an employee can have before they would need to apply for sick pay from the Government. The rate of Statutory Sick Pay is currently £89.35 per week for a maximum of 28 weeks in any period of prolonged sickness.
⦁ Show a caring attitude – Your staff member probably already feels bad for piling on the extra work to his/her colleagues, so adapt a caring attitude and show concern for your staff member. Keep in touch to a degree, and keep the communication channels open.
⦁ Encourage your staff to be healthy – Some companies have found that by offering a fruit basket in their staff room each week, staff are “more inclined” to eat fruit over unhealthy snacks throughout the year, which could give their immune system a real boost for the Winter season.
⦁ A study by Fruitful Office found that 87% of staff would rather be employed by a company that offers health and well-being support, and over 80% of their clients said that following the introduction of fruit in the office, “Quality of life in the office” improved, with 70% of staff eating more fruit. We all know fruit has a direct impact on the immune system and the ability to fight off infections, so this could really make an impact on your sick rates.
⦁ Offer working from home – Some staff who have colds and coughs can still answer some emails and conduct important work from home while they recover. Consider offering this option for your staff – but don’t force it upon them. This can help minimise disruption while the staff member gets back to full health.
⦁ Accept it – Ultimately, you need to accept, that just like the summer when people have their ⦁ summer holidays booked in and staff rates can be patchy, that the winter brings its own challenges. Hopefully, the Christmas period will give staff the time to recoup and recover, ready to start a-fresh again in ⦁ January