9 ways to manage non-genuine absence | Moorepay
July 31, 2023

9 ways to manage non-genuine absence

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Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that sickness absence has now hit it’s highest level on record since 2004. The main course of absence are minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, flu, sickness, nausea and diarrhoea.

While employees are entitled to take time off for illness (we all get sick once in a while) it is well known that some employees will take adventure of sick leave and will report sick with such minor illness when they are in fact fit for work.

Whilst no one wants to question if the employee is really ill or if their relative has genuinely passed away, if the right tools, polices, and process are in place managers can confidently question suspicious absence without worrying about negative repercussions.

Here are out top tips to help ensure those tools are in place

Set clear expectations

Ensure you have clear policies to cover all unplanned absences, such as dependants leave, compassionate leave, sickness absence and parental leave. The policies should make clear what is expected of your employee in relation to each type of absence and how you will investigate any potential misconduct.

If you believe that the employees’ absence in not genuine, ensure you take the appropriate action, however do not to jump to conclusions. Carry out an investigation, gather evidence and if appropriate move to disciplinary or capability procedures.

Forewarn employees

Peaks in good weather, school holidays, and popular sporting events can tempt some employees to take non-genuine absence. Publicise such occasions and remind employees of the potential impact their absence may have of their colleagues. Inform them that all cases on illness on such occasions will be examined and employees may face disciplinary action if they are found to be dishonest.

Identify patterns

Absence levels are at the highest on shifts that fall over the weekend and on Mondays. Make a record of each individual’s absence, the days they took off and the reasons given for each absence. If any regular patterns accrue discuss them with the employee.

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Set trigger points

When absence levels reach these “trigger points” it reminds you that absence levels have reached a point whereby investigation is required. This will not necessarily mean formal action or warnings, but will mean that further investigation into an individual’s absence levels is required.

Ask the right questions when they call in sick

The way you respond when the employee calls in sick can help to identify any non-genuine absence.
Ask the employee the following questions

  • What’s the reasons for the absence?
  • How long do you think you’re likely to be off for?
  • Have you visited a medical practitioner?
  • If no, do you intend to visit the medical practitioner?
  • If yes, what was the medical diagnosis?
  • Have you been issued with a fit note?
  • Are you taking any medication?

Check social media activity

Check to see if activity posted on the employee’s social media account is consistent with the information, they provided you with. Supposing that an employee puts a call in to their manager, saying they can’t come to work because they’ve got a serious stomach infection, but later that day they check into a restaurant on Facebook, you could argue that either their illness was feigned or, if the employee did have an infection and were able to tuck into the meal, they could still come into work.

Ask for medical certificates to certify the absence

Employees who are absence form work between 1 and 7 days must complete a self certification form.

Employees who are off for 7 days or more are required to provide a “fit note”.
For employees who have been off work for 4 consecutive weeks consider writing to their doctor to gain more information on their condition and their foreseeable return to
work date.

Hold a return to work interview after every absence

Return to work meetings are an essential tool for managing absence. They give you the opportunity to re examine the reasons given for the absence and ensure the information is consistent with the information taken on the initial call. They also allow the employee to open up about any circumstances that have led to the absence. Such as personal issues or any concerns they have within the workplace.

Be careful

You need to tread carefully with employees who could be viewed to have a disability, people having time off to solve family issues, and pregnant employees.

Further advice and support

The above is general guidance only. If you would like to develop an absence management policy, develop some trigger points, or have an employee who is absence from work , call our Advice Line on 0345 073 0240 option 3 (selecting option 2 ) for more specific guidance, tailored to the individual case.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.