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The cost of ‘Seasonal Sniffles’

So summer is over and its getting nearer to that time of year when people develop what is widely known as a winter ‘sniffle’. Harmless you may think, but then according to the Telegraph, sickness reportedly costs the UK economy £6.5bn a year. Of course it is unlikely that workforces in the UK consider a minor cold, reason enough to call in sick, yet there are those who regularly flout the rules regarding sickness particularly short term regular absences.

Not only is absence an issue that costs employers, but it is also a sensitive issue to confront; it can be difficult for even the most seasoned manager to question a member of staff and at times even recognise when the rules are being disregarded. Of course employees are able to take time off for sickness, but it is when they begin to abuse the sickness absence system, that action needs to be taken.

Having clear steps in place that are well communicated to your staff could mean that more people refrain from misusing your sickness policy.

Examples of some of the steps to take include:

  • Making it compulsory for all staff members to inform the Company of their absence, including the cause for absence and the expected length of time the informing the company of sickness to speak to a line manger directly, as close to their expected start time as possible to give the business time to arrange cover
  • A company should then ensure that all managers are trained to deal effectively with the issue of sickness.
  • Informing all staff members that a sick note, now known as a ‘fit note’ presented by your doctor, needs to be forwarded to the company before SSP can be paid
  • Upon the absentee’s return to work, a ‘return to work’ interview should take place where support or longer implications of the sickness can be discussed

The Telegraph reports that ‘other costs that ramp up the overall sickness absence bill include replacement staff salaries, recruitment and training costs for replacement workers, productivity loss and the red tape and staff time involved in trying to deal with sickness. Some of the options employers can consider to minimise costs are:

  • Following an assessment of the reasons for absence. It may be possible to offer the employee alternative working days/hours or even job role.
  • An increase in sickness can often disguise a rise in unhappiness levels of individual or groups of staff at work so keeping an eye on absence statistics may prevent future problems
  • Putting a sickness scoring system in place could make the workforce more aware of the impact of taking time as absence on the business and on their job position as well.

Facing sickness issues is difficult; no employer likes to appear unsympathetic, or untrusting of staff members, but when it becomes clear that sickness is becoming a problem it should be tackled as early as possible.


“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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