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Absence Management

Absent Friends?

The phone call, just before opening time, advising you that “xxxxxxx isn’t well and won’t be in work today” is one of the most irritating aspects of running a salon or spa. Of course, all staff can be ill, but single days and short term absences are particularly disruptive and frustrating. There is little chance of arranging cover. Even if your clients can be accommodated by other staff they can be irritated by having to accept an alternative therapist.

Are “sickies” just a fact of life that you have to accept? The short answer is no.

Absence from work

When an employee wakes up in the morning there are a wide range of reasons why they might decide to have a day at home. These include the weather, the time of the year, the day of the week (Mondays being the least popular), domestic, personal or childcare issues, and, of course, because of they are sick.

The absent rate peaked in 2013 when the average employee had 7.6 days off work but in 2021 it was only 1.8% the lowest since 1995

We know from statistics that absence levels tend to increase when employees are over 50. But remember over 80% of employees aged under 35 had no absences in 2020. The highest rate is in Wales the lowest in London

Employment Law

It is difficult to get in to debate with a therapist about whether they were sick enough to have to stay off work, you aren’t a Doctor and we want to avoid such debates .At the end of the day the employee decides if they are unfit to attend work and being off work doesn’t mean they have to remain housebound. It is easy to understand employers’ frustration if employees are seen shopping or in the pub but in my experience this sort of argument rarely benefits the employer. Where an employee falsely reports sickness to go on holiday or even to work elsewhere; it is much more likely you will be able to prove their misconduct (or probably) gross misconduct.

It is more advantageous to look at the question of capability and an employee’s pattern of absence or their frequency of absence .The law is clear and providing the employer has reviewed the sickness record and the reasons for the absence, established there is no underlying medical symptom and, after has listened to any other explanation, then, if the absenteeism continues disciplinary action can be taken. There have been many cases where employees have been dismissed for persistent absenteeism and Tribunals have rejected claims for unfair dismissal.

Helpful Hints

Absenteeism has to be seen by everyone as a high profile issue, therefore:

  • Full attendance should be one of the criteria to pass the probationary period.
  • Staff should have to personally phone in when they are sick
  • There should always be a full return to work interview when an employee returns
  • The salons absence rate should be known by staff and can be used at staff meetings.
  • You should have a Sickness Absence Policy. Ideally have triggers. For example, four absences in twelve months might be the trigger for a formal review.
  • Make sure good attendance is recognised and rewarded. Some salons give an extra days holiday for 100% attendance in 12 months.
  • To some extent you have to be flexible, if staff have domestic or family issues and bring them to you then if you don’t provide any solutions for them the easiest option is often to phone in sick. For example allowing holiday at short notice isn’t ideal but it’s maybe better than a 9am sickness call.
  • If staff hit the absence trigger have a really open and thorough discussion with them, it’s their opportunity to let you know if there is a domestic or work relating issue which is affecting their attendance.
  • Don’t make deals e.g reduce your absences from 10 to 5 days and it will be ok. Give the employee time to improve, for example 3 to 6 months but make it clear if they don’t then disciplinary action will be taken.

David Wright Personnel

Phone - 01302 563 691

Mobile - 07930 358 067