Sick Leave: Misuse and Management

Sick Leave: Misuse and Management

While sick or personal leave can affect an organisation's business as usual, we know that it's important to encourage sick staff members to stay home. However, what about those staff members who abuse their sick or personal leave regularly?How can you pick up on the misuse of sick or personal leave and measure its long-term effects on the business? It can be particularly difficult to keep track of and report on in a large organisation. In this blog, we discuss how the right software and reporting can help identify misuse of sick days and manage them more efficiently.

The recent “Wellness in the Workplace Survey” carried out by Southern Cross Health Society and Gallagher Basset has revealed that one in five employers believe staff take paid absence as an occasional perk, with “sickies”.

The survey showed that 15% of New Zealanders admit to taking sick leave for non-genuine sickness. It also reveals that those in the 20-30 age bracket were the most likely of any age group to take non-genuine leave. This is then followed by the 31-40 group, then 41-50; with older workers and those under 20 years the least likely. These “sickies” is accountable for 303,000 lost days of work each year. Although this is a New Zealand statistic we believe that the situation is similar in Australia.

While it is impossible to identify the exact level of non-genuine sickness absence, this information should prompt businesses to look at workplace culture; the degree to which “sickies” are taken; and how the issue could be addressed.

The first step in managing sick or personal leave, is to ensure all employees understand the business’ leave policies and the consequences of violating them. When it comes to identifying misuse of sick or personal leave, patterns could be one of the earliest warning signs that an employee is taking sick or personal leave when they aren’t actually sick. The best approach for an employer who suspects repeated misuse of sick or personal leave is to visually track and assess the trends, then arrange a meeting with the employee.

The employer can use the data that has been recorded and discuss the impact that the pattern is having – not only on the employee’s own work performance but also that of their colleagues. The data will assist in starting a conversation and identifying whether there are other issues at play or whether the leave is genuine.

At Datacom, we have the ability to assist employers with monitoring absenteeism. Our Manager Direct Access portal provides managers with views of sick or personal leave for their staff that will help them identify patterns. Some patterns are inevitable, e.g. it is likely that there will be more sickness in winter. However other patterns showing frequent sickies around public holiday weekends or weekends in general could be indicative of abuse. Manager Direct Access will reveal any patterns.

The Bradford University undertook research into absenteeism and its connection to workplace productivity. This research eventually led to the development of the “Bradford Factor”, which provides a score for each employee, indicating the level of absenteeism over the preceding period. The Bradford Factor score can be calculated from the number of absences and the total days absent during the preceding year.

All of the required information for a Bradford Factor score calculation exists within your payroll system and so it's relatively straightforward to produce a report from Datacom DataPay. The report will allow you to not only monitor absenteeism but also identify and address core issues around sick leave trends. The report can then be used to trigger investigations into high scores and any subsequent action.

Contact us if you'd like some assistance to configure reports to monitor absenteeism in your organisation.

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