Combat Workplace Winter “sickies”

by | May 30, 2018 | Leave & Policies

Coming into winter people catch colds or worse, the flu.  When someone calls in sick, it can be stressful managing without that extra worker.  You may think you need that employee at work, but do you really want staff showing up full of the flu, only to spread it through the whole department?  At the other end of the spectrum you may have staff who appear to be demonstrating patterns of non-genuine sick leave.  For example someone who has a pattern of not showing up on a Monday, or someone who regularly fails to show up for work the day after pay day.  Or the case where you recognise a staff member seems to be taking an excessive amount of sick leave.

‘Pulling sickies’ is often a knock-on effect from not addressing repetitive, low-level skiving.  If issues such as talking too much on your phone during work time, showing up to work late repeatedly or having long lunches are addressed early the employment relationship, it sends a signal of laxness that can lead to a more serious form of ‘skivitis’ – non-genuine sick leave.  Take a look at our quick guide to sick leave issues it’s a great tool to assist you when you are looking at framing up a sick leave policy

Non-genuine sick leave is a tricky area to navigate.  As employers you want to think the best of your workers – because let’s face it – they are the back bone of your business. Yet you know at its essence it is disrespectful and damaging behaviour.  However, if you have workers with patterns of absence it is important that you deal with it – and promptly.  Start with downloading the HRtoolkit sick leave policy, which outlines:

  • Protocols for calling in sick (will you allow texting or is it strictly calling).
  • Who staff are to call, when sick. If it is a Manager then ensure during induction the staff have the contact number loaded into their phone from day one.
  • Outline the statutory requirements for when a medical certificate is required.
  • Protocols for your shift workers.

Then communicate the policy with your staff.

I was recently discussing this very issue of poor productivity due to low level skiving and suspected non-genuine sick leave with the director of a Tech company.  I advised him to implement a code of conduct and a sick leave policy and discuss it with the staff.  The owner felt uncomfortable and said he didn’t want to come across as an ogre or a suspicious person.  He was surprised to know this is actually a reasonably common response from Kiwi business owners – Kiwi’s on the whole, are culturally averse to having the ‘courageous conversation’.

Framing your conversation around what you want to see, and the potential impacts on co-workers who may have to pick up the extra work, rather than focusing on the negatives, should assist the conversational flow.  For example:

“We all want the business to succeed and I want to be able to trust my workers to perform their role well, and not worry about unexplained absence, people showing up late, or phoning in sick two hours after start time.  We are all professionals.  I am implementing some simple guidelines and company protocols to assist us all and clarify the expectations of the business around workplace performance….”

All companies should have a clear policy on sick leave and absenteeism.  Please download HRtoolkit’s sick leave policy to assist you.

When you have established the boundaries for sick leave and reporting in sick, you also need to address your internal communications, including:

  • A handover of any client appointments, training courses, new staff starting and/or any key workflow issues you as a manager need to know about.
  • Inform reception
  • Informing Payroll – administration of sick leave can be particularly time consuming if managers do not pay attention to the details:
    • WAGE/TIMESHEET: ensure that the person covering’s timesheet states who they are covering for e.g. Aaron Staples covering for John Bana sick

Good communication in conjunction with good company policies ensures your company manages the winter chills and ills more effectively.


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