Dealing with staff absenteeism

Tesco are currently piloting non-payment of sick pay for the first three days at some of their stores in a bid to reduce absenteeism.

Could the same system work for a smaller business and how would you go about it?

For businesses that offer contractual sick pay, that is, those who voluntarily pay more than the Statutory Sick Pay level, the results of Tesco’s experiment could be worth looking out for. Adopting the scheme, or a variation of it, could reduce unnecessary absenteeism, but it is not a straightforward process.

Daniel Naftalin, a partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya, points out that there are potential drawbacks to Tesco’s scheme, which in its basic form he calls “a stick with no carrot”.

Chief amongst these drawbacks is the likelihood of genuinely sick people “coming into work when they are too ill to do so, infecting other people and making mistakes” Conversely, “employees who would take a day off for a hangover, for example, may spin their absence out beyond three days” in order to get paid for their absence.

However, Naftalin points out that a variation on the scheme may work, for example, another of Tesco’s experiments whereby 12 weeks of work without absences is rewarded with food vouchers.

A business considering adopting this kind of policy would need the agreement of its employees as it involves changing the terms of the contract, although it would be possible to simply change the contract for new employees while keeping existing employeesÂ’ contracts the same. If appropriate, the employees’ union will also need to be consulted.

Even if the Tesco scheme is not your cup of tea, Naftalin believes it is worthwhile reviewing sick pay policies to give more flexibility to deal with problems.

However, he warns that firms must be very careful not to fall foul of disability discrimination laws.

“There is a danger of calling someone a malingerer for not coming into work due to back problems, but those back problems could turn into a serious medical condition.” Investigations must be done into suspicious absences, starting with discussions with the employee in question and moving on to medical experts and occupational health practitioners if necessary.

Related Topics

Absence and Absenteeism

Leave a comment