News

May 13, 2011 - Anonymous

Lack of management training leaves firms exposed to “sickies”

Small businesses are failing to recognise or tackle high staff absence rates due to poorly trained line managers, the Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS) has warned.

Citing research from the Engineering Employers’ Federation, ELAS said that sickness absence in UK businesses has fallen from an average of 6.7 days per person per year in 2007, to five days in 2011.

However, ELAS head of employment law, Peter Mooney, said while corporate institutions were tackling high staff absence levels, small firms were failing to deal with the problem.

“More than a quarter of small firms leave absence management to line managers not trained in absence handling, as an additional task alongside their main job,” he said. “This enables staff to pull ‘sickies’ whenever and as frequently as they want.

“Too many businesses think the law is on the employee’s side, and that if they take staff to task, they’ll automatically end up in an employment tribunal – that’s not the case,” said Mooney. “Providing you give evidence to back up any allegations and that you follow correct procedures to make any disciplinary action fair, then businesses can tackle absenteeism and, in some cases, cut sickness levels considerably.

“We find businesses which are almost paralysed by their fear of dealing with sick leave,” he added. “Not only do they allow staff to text in sick – which practically encourages throwing a sickie – but they fail to deal with even the most outrageous excuses for being off work, from feeling ill after a stag do in Amsterdam to having had a fake tan go badly wrong.

“It’s these excuses – and the brass neck of staff prepared to use them – which are behind the fact that absenteeism costs the UK £32 billion a year, not excessive red tape or genuine illness.”

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development adviser, Dr Jill Miller, added: “It’s vital to ensure line managers have the people management skills to coach and develop their staff, set clear objectives, provide honest feedback, as well as to provide support where needed and manage team relationships.”