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Managing Absence notes from HR Group 29th Nov

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NOTES OF THE HR PEER GROUP MEETING

MANAGING ABSENCE

29/11/2012

Present:        Maxine Hart            –         Wote St

Matthew Bennett     –         Wote St

Madelaine Allen       –         Wote St

Tracy Fisher            –         Wote St

Emma Coker           –         Care Fusion

Julie Kehoe-Smith   –         Worting House

Jacqui Dicks            –         Bio Merieux

Karen Bristow         –         Phillips Solicitors

Steve Barham         –         Powerdrive

Jo Stevens              –         HR Solutions 4 U

Jai MacIain             –         Western House

James Humphrey    –         Trethowans

Liz Johnson            –         True Potential

Aplogies:       Sian Perham           –         Sian Perham Consultancy

Louise Cairns          –         Care Fusion

Alison Haddon         –         Probation Service

Quentin Lister         –         Bitbox

Pam Spain              –         Great Guns Marketing

We introduced ourselves and explained how whether absence was an issue for us.  There was a general consensus that absence through snow has become an issue in recent years and that is a subject that needs discussion.  Also that absence becomes more of an issue during December and January due in part to over indulgence.  Some companies may need to consider establishing an Alcohol Policy.

 

WEATHER

We talked around having a policy to cover adverse weather conditions such as snow and talked around the issue of problems of gridlock around the town centre as companies closed early because of the snow.  We covered whether it was reasonable to allow people to leave earlier because of the distance they lived from the office.

Technically, no one is entitled to pay if they don’t turn up for work.  The important thing is to treat people fairly and consistently.  Some companies had the issue of managers being able to work from home due to the nature of their work, but their staff not being able to.

The issue of delay in returning from holidays was discussed, particularly in relation to the recent Ash Cloud and Hurricanes meaning that people have been unable to fly home from their holidays.  If people do not present for work then they should not be paid.  If it is beyond their control then it is not a disciplinary issue.  It would be reasonable however to offer for them to take the extra time as paid holiday.  This then raised the issue of whether using holiday in this way could lead to people becoming tired after a long period without a break as their holiday has been used up unexpectedly.   It was agreed that it may be reasonable to consider allowing unpaid holiday at this point.

Generally there should be management discretion, but this should be owned by a person named in the policy to ensure consistency across different departments.  This can either be owned by HR or a senior manager.

SICK DAYS

 

It was mentioned that in some companies sick pay is seen as an entitlement that needs to be used.  This is particularly prevalent in some organisations cultures.

OVER INDULGENCE

 

The problem of absence due to over indulgence was mentioned.  We talked around the issue of staff Christmas parties being midweek and staff having to work the next day.  Is it responsible to purchase unlimited alcohol for the staff and then be unhappy when they are unable to work the next day?

There is also the issue of bad behaviour during the works Xmas do.  If they are on a works do even though out of hours, they are considered to be representing the company.

MEASURING

 

Is it right to conduct a return to work interview on every occasion?

Is was felt that this doesn’t need to be a formal interview, but just the act of making a point of discussing the absence with an employee was believed to serve a number of purposes.

Firstly they will feel you care.  You are showing concern over their wellbeing.  Secondly it may act as a deterrent – if they know they are going to have to discuss their absence on their return, they may think twice about phoning in sick if they are not genuine.

Some companies use the Bradford factor to assess whether there is an issue.  This is an objective way of measuring how many days sick an individual has had compared to the department/company norm. See link:-

Bradford Factor

 

POLICY

 

Do they have to tell you why they are off?

Your policy should state this.  If they refuse to tell you why they are off then you can withhold their pay.

Your policy should mention who should be notified in the event of sickness and the standards for this.  For example the time you should phone in by and who should be notified.  Also it is best to state that you should phone in yourself rather than get someone to phone in on your behalf or you text in.

The term Fit for Work has proved a problem.  It can be hard to get a doctor to declare that someone is fit for work when they are looking at reduced duties or working from home.  It may be necessary to get an Occupational Health Specialist involved.

We discussed whether you should pay people if you send them home.  It was agreed that you are not legally obliged to but many people felt uncomfortable withholding pay if you are not allowing someone to work but they have made the effort to turn up for work.

It was agreed that there should be discretion in this area.  However it was also discussed that observing discretion in sickness can be dangerous as it can be deemed that it leads to discrimination.  There have been cases where companies have used discretion more when dealing with women and it has been brought as a sex discrimination case by a man.

SSP

 

There was some confusion over SSP rules.  Link to the HMRC website:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/employees/statutory-pay/ssp-overview.htm

CONCLUSION

 

Establish Policies on absence, but build in discretion.

Ensure they are regularly reviewed and communicated to staff.

Ensure managers are trained on how to implement the policy.

There should be someone who is ultimately responsible for decisions on policy to ensure fairness and consistency across departments.

There should be a system in place to record and monitor absence and to identify when it becomes a problem (Consider the Bradford Factor)

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