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Blog : You make me sick


You make me sick

A report, highlighted in HR magazine last week, maintains that the UK is topping the charts when it comes to people taking time off sick. Second only to Germany, the UK loses 35 million days a year and, according to the HSE, this costs employers £495 per employee each year in direct costs.
In 2011 an independent review was commissioned by the government and a number of recommendations were made to help tackle the challenge UK businesses are facing, for example:
-        Independent panels should trump family doctors
-        Employment law should be changed
-        The system for recovering statutory sick pay should be scrapped
-        The Government should publish more guidance for doctors
You can add to this the individual attempts organisations take to combat, such as using software specifically designed to help manage the issue or outsourced businesses which provide nurses to take calls and report to managers.
It seems, however, that we are looking at this from the wrong angle; most of the recommendations made focus on how to deal with people once they’ve declared themselves ‘sick’. If someone is genuinely ill then they should stay at home and get better; we’re not contesting that. What’s concerning is the high number of people that think it is their right to have a ‘duvet day’; faking sickness to go and do something more interesting or who simply can’t be bothered to show up on any given day. Shockingly there are over 4 million results found when Googling ‘fake sickness for work’.  We all know people that have called in sick at the first hint of a cough, or regularly have a Monday off with ‘food poisoning’ after a heavy weekend. According to HITC Business, UK employees are ‘experts at throwing a sickie’ reporting on a study by PWC that found, on average, UK workers take 9.1 days a year off sick. One HRD recently told me that during induction a middle manager asked him ‘how many sick days she was entitled to’. Another study by the Confederation of British Industry estimates that up to 12% of UK sickness is fraudulent.
This is a challenge that requires attention; it stands to reason that engaged and successful employees will be less likely to take time off sick. PWC’s study concurs, the best performing and growth sectors have lower rates of sick leave, with the tech industry in the UK having the lowest levels at an average of just 3.4 days per worker. So how do organisations minimise the amount of time taken through fraudulent sickness absence? Here are our three top tips:
1. Be nice
If you encourage a culture of positivity, friendliness and fun people will want to come to work, happy people are productive people and if your workforce is engaged they will do anything they can to make it in. At Purple Cubed we ‘don’t do sick’ that is, unless it’s the ‘can’t get out of the bed’ type. Leading from the front on this is key, in 12 years I haven’t known our CEO to have one day off ill. Pretty impressive but also reflected in our annual absence rate of less than a day per employee. It also helps if the physical environment is one people want to spend time in, providing free fruit and a monthly massage also helps our people’s wellbeing.

2. Share responsibility
If everyone is working towards a shared goal or objective, with their own specific responsibilities then taking a ‘sickie’ will mean that another person has to cover. If your organisation has well-formed teams and treats people as adults then it is unlikely an individual will want to burden others with extra work.
3. Talk to people
If people are repeatedly calling in sick there will be a reason for it; often high pressure, issues with a colleague or manager, boredom or personal issues. If you are regularly reviewing your people’s progress it’s possible to nip many of these issues in the bud, before they get to the point of staying off work. It is for this reason that we advise clients to ask their people about any challenges/problems/barriers they may be having at work in their one-to-ones and tackle them head on.
It’s pretty obvious, the more engaged your people are the less fraudulent sickness absence will be taken; what are you doing to prevent this in your organisation?

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