19th july, 2016

Pulling a 'sickie' in the sunshine

A significant number of employers are faced with a reduced workforce today as many take advantage of the mini heatwave across Ireland.
With temperatures soaring across the country today, undoubtedly a number of employees have decided to make the most of the unusually tropical weather and take the day off work.
Absenteeism costs small businesses in Ireland a whopping €490 million per year, according to the Small Firms Association and while we have no specific Irish data on the impact hot weather has on employee absenteeism, a study in the UK showed that 8 in 10 businesses were effected by staff pulling a 'sickie' because of good weather in a particularly hot week, while 7 in 10 workers admitted that the good weather has tempted them to ring in sick. Employee absences increased by 30% in a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As an employer, these incidences may seem difficult to control but there are a number of steps you can put in place to keep control of employee absences.
What can employers do?

Every employer has their own policy when it comes to sick days and time off however most will have well documented procedures set out in their employee handbook around reporting sick leave and absences.

1. Relax the dress code
In the business of car sales, it's not always possible to relax dress codes but perhaps a balance could be struck and suit jackets can be abandoned in these sweltering conditions.

2. Make the workplace as pleasant as possible

Under Irish legislation, no maximum temperature for a workplace is set out however an employer does have a general duty under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all employees.

Ensuring that your showroom is air conditioned and allowing for regular drink breaks will help keep staff comfortable and motivated.

3. Consider flexible working
You might consider extended lunch breaks, free ice cream or an early finish, providing targets are met.

4. Simply follow standard procedure
The employee should directly notify their line manager as soon as possible to explain the reason and expected length of absence.

5. Return to work interviews
On their return, employees should be interviewed before completing a self-certification form. If you feel it necessary, you can investigate further.
Of course, alarm bells might ring if an employee, who was 'in bed all day with the flu', returns to work the next day with a glowing tan...
Faking a sickness could have detrimental consequences and in some cases, employers have found out via social media. In a UK survey, a quarter of employers caught employees lying about being sick by checking their social media accounts. Of those, 22% fired the employee, but 54% were more forgiving and settled on a reprimand.

Employers who think that an employee is faking an illness however need to be aware that if the allegation can't be proven, the working relationship could be destroyed and worse still, could lead to a constructive dismissal claim.

Enjoy the rest of the sunshine!
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