Minor illnesses account for most short term absence from work

There are a number of possible reasons for persistent short term absences: –

  • a series of minor unconnected conditions such as was sick, food poisoning, bad back, headache, flu etc
  • recurrent conditions such as back problems, stress, depression, multiple schlerosis etc
  • problems outside of work such as with childcare arrangements or financial difficulties
  • abuse of the sickness system

All of these cause problems and and can be both difficult to deal with and frustrating.

So how do you determine which are genuine illnesses?

Research suggests that Return to Work Meetings are a good way of combating persistent absences as most staff will think twice about skiving off work it they know that the absence will be noticed and will be inquired into by management on their return to work.

To be effective the meeting should be as soon as possible following the employee’s return to work, but certainly no later than the second or third day back. The meeting will be an informal discussion to determine:-

  • If they feel fit enough to return to work
  • Whether the absence was work related
  • Whether there are any underlying problems i.e. financial/social
  • What steps the employee has taken to investigate the problem
  • What preventative action they have taken to prevent reoccurrence
  • Ensure the Company Self Certificate is completed and signed

If the meeting highlights an underlying medical condition you should seek proper medical opinion in order to determine the extent and likely duration of the condition. Consideration should be given to whether the condition amounts to a disability under the Equality Act.

Top Tips

The discussion will probably not take longer than 10 minutes and should be recorded for future reference.

The records don’t need to be lengthy, but should include the details of any action to be taken by the employee or employer.

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The Absence due to Sickness or Injury folder contains guidance and resources to help you manage short term sickness. Short term absence is generally an absence of less than seven consecutive days that would be covered by a self-certification note, however these procedures will also cover any absence covered by medical certificates which has not reached four weeks in length, where an absence does reach four weeks in length, please follow the procedures described in the long-term absence. I provide a Self-Certification form and Return to Work form with Guidelines to help you prepare for and conduct the meeting.

Dealing with Short Term Sickness Absence

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