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Managing Sickness Absence During Lockdown

Monday was National Sickie Day, which is the day statistically employees are most likely to ‘pull a sickie’.  Here at ViewHR, we are aware that during lockdown, when employees may be working from home, juggling childcare, or undertaking flexible furlough, sickness absence can be difficult for employers to monitor.  However, it is important to do so, to ensure employees are appropriately supported, and any concerns are managed in a timely manner.

To help employers manage sickness absence during lockdown, we have come up with some tops tips:

Review Reporting and Recording Procedures

If employees and managers are working different hours to usual, are working from home, or if the manager is on furlough leave, the usual reporting procedures (which are often telephoning your manager in the office before the usual start time) may not be appropriate.  As such, it may be appropriate to update the reporting procedures, so that everybody is clear on who to contact, when and how.  Employees should also be made aware of the updated procedures.

Absence should also still be recorded, so that any underlying patterns or concerns can be identified, and employees can be paid appropriately.  However, if you use trigger points (such a Bradford Factor scores to monitor short-term absences), it may be appropriate to review these, so that employees are not unduly penalised for self-isolating.

Encourage Boundaries at Home

When employees are working from home, the decision about whether or not they are well enough to work can become blurred.  When an employee has to get ready and get to work for a set time, then a decision about whether or not to go in has to be made.  However, when working from home, employees may decide to stay in bed a little longer and maybe do a bit of work later in the day, without anybody else even knowing in some cases.

If an employee is genuinely well enough later in the day, this can be helpful.  However, it is not always ideal – they may take longer to recover if they do not rest, and employers may not be aware of any areas of concern and support that the employee needs.  There can also be pay issues.

As such, employees should be clear on the requirement to speak to their manager if they are unwell, and take appropriate time to rest and recover.  Managers should maintain regular contact with employees, we encourage managers to have return to work conversations when the employee feels well enough to return.  This will help to ensure that they are well enough to get back to work, and are appropriately supported.

Even when well, it is important that employees have good boundaries when working from home, as this may help to avoid overwork and any possible health problems that may develop as a result.

Know the Self-Isolation Rules

When an employee has Covid symptoms, or is worried that they have been in contact with somebody with symptoms or has tested positive, then it is important to know the rules on when to self-isolate, which are available here. It is of course important that employees do not physically attend work when they should be self-isolating – even if it is frustrating when they may not seem that unwell, you do not want an outbreak in your workforce.  It may also be helpful to avoid unnecessary absences, for people who are concerned but do not need to self-isolate.

Employers should also be aware that the rules on SSP when an absence is related to Covid, which is available from day one for those affected by Covid.  ViewHR has posted blogs on updates to this here: and here:

Support Long-Term Sickness

With NHS services being stretched by Covid, treatment for other conditions may be delayed or affected in other ways.  As such, it is likely to be an uncertain time for employees who have been absent for a long time, as they may be worried about their treatment, and also worried about what is happening at work – will there still be a job for them to come back to?  Employers may be able to support employees by maintaining regular contact and updating them about developments at work.  It may also be appropriate to engage an Occupational Health provider, particularly if information from NHS consultants required for medical reports is delayed, and timescales for long-term absence management processes may need to be reviewed as appropriate.

If you are an employer and would like support with managing employee absence, please contact a member of the View HR team for an initial discussion.  Please also check out our range of blogs on how you can support employees with matters such as mental health during these challenging times.