What happens if a member of staff phones in sick but they are later seen out at the shopping centre or down at the pub? Does that mean their skiving?
Not necessarily, ill employees are not necessarily confined to their beds so if another employee sees them out shopping, walking the dog or sitting in a pub it’s worth remembering that not all illnesses incapacitate a person to the extent that they need to stay in bed or remain at home. This is especially true with conditions such as stress or depression. Colleagues are often keen to alert their managers to any perceived inconsistencies between a colleague’s absence and their behaviour whilst of sick, particularly if their own work load has increased as a result.
Being able to go and enjoy social events is not necessarily incompatible with an individual being too ill to work. Clearly you might want to ask some questions of an employee signed off sick due to chronic back pain and being able to run a marathon, gyrate on the dance floor or teach yoga. However, it is unlikely to be reasonable to ask the same employee to explain how they were able to work around the shops or go out for dinner. Some health conditions may benefit from, the individual taking exercise or getting out of the house and the employee may be following their doctor’s advice.
Even if you have doubts as to whether someone is genuinely ill, it’s important not to accuse someone of lying when you don’t have all the facts.
It’s good practice to have in place a procedure that requires all employees to phone in and speak to their manager or a nominated person if they are too ill to come into work even if it’s only for one day. Employees who are absent for over a week, generally have to obtain a note from their GP which should set out the nature of the illness and how long the employee is likely to be off work. Employers are required to accept a fit note at face value unless they have convincing evidence which casts doubt on whether the employee is genuinely ill.
It’s also good practice to conduct a return to work interview with anyone who has been absent due to ill health after any period of illness. Employees should be asked to explain any inconsistencies between the reason given for their absence and any observed behaviour. Only if an employee cannot give a satisfactory explanation should disciplinary action being taken.
Evidence is more likely to be in the form of social media such as Facebook these days, so if an employee says they were too ill to come into work but they posted the fact they went out and got drunk the night before with friends, it legitimate to ask them about whether their illness was connected with having had too much alcohol the night before.
If in doubt always seek expert HR advice to help minimise the risk to your business. Free call Peninsula Business Services on 1890 252 923 and our experienced advisors will be happy to help.