According to research, the first Monday in February is the day in the year when staff are traditionally most likely to take an unofficial day off work.

Peter Mooney, of the Employment Law Advisor Services (ELAS) conducted the research and believes that taking a ‘sickee’ is becoming easier as some employers are dispensing with the traditional requirement to phone in sick in favour of other means of communication such as text messaging.

According to the CBI, sickness is causing organisations big problems.  For example, workers in the Heath and Social Care sector take an average of 12.6 days per year which is over double those taken by private sector employees (5.8 days per year).

The key to resolving this problem is for organisations to have clear sickness policies and procedures and to train their managers to deal with the issue.

Managers need to have management training to help them to understand the difference between short term and long term sickness absence.

For cases of short term absence managers need to ensure that they know how to conduct return to work interviews, to identify patterns in the individual’s absences (e.g. is it always on a Monday or Friday?)  and to discuss with the individual whether there are any underlying reasons for the absence.  If there are underlying reasons, managers need to now how to deal with them (e.g. by referring them to occupational health).

For cases of long term sickness, managers need to stay in contact with the employee and if appropriate, visit them at home,  Managers should encourage those on long term sick to remain in contact with work and if appropriate drop into work for short periods to see their colleagues.  They may also need to get an independent occupational health assessment made to determine whether the individual is fit for work.

When disciplinary issues arise, managers also need to have the skills, confidence and capability to discipline staff effectively.

Ultimately managers need to know how to manage both long term and short term sickness absence, and the best way for this to happen is for organisations to ensure their mangers receive the appropriate management training.