How management can tackle the ‘sickie’ epidemic that is costing the UK economy millions

In an age of social media, it has become a lot easier for employers to catch out staff who are pulling a sickie

Studies indicate that over nine million people will have ‘pulled a sickie’ in the past 12 months alone, with the first Monday in February being the most popular day of the year to feign illness to get out of going to work.

While some may regard the odd sick day as a rite of passage, this can have a serious impact on the organisation and may lead to severe consequences for the employee. With the so-called National Sickie Day thought to cost the UK economy around £45m, it could be time for employers to clamp down on work-shy staff.

One way in which to do this is to ensure that staff are aware of the company sickness policy and that they adhere to it. Not only does this keep the manager in the loop but also it allows for minimal disruption to the company’s workload. Staff who ring in late or fail to ring it all should be aware that this delays the delegation of their work to other members of staff; in addition, of course, they must know that if they are found to be lying about illness, this could be treated as gross misconduct.

In an age of social media, it has become a lot easier for employers to catch out staff who are pulling a sickie; for example, if they have phoned in sick but later the same day post photos online of themselves out and about, perhaps checking into bars or generally appearing to be fit and well, this can be used in compiling a case against them. Management could argue that the employee was either being dishonest about their illness or, supposing they made a miraculous recovery, they were well enough to come into work.

Employees may also come under fire if they attend second jobs while phoning in sick to another. This would be particularly detrimental to their case should they be found to be working during the hours in which they should be in their other job. Even if this is not the case, an employer could still argue that as they were well enough to work at all, they could have been faking illness.

If it becomes apparent that an employee has been dishonest about illness to take time off work, their employer has grounds to take disciplinary action. Depending on the circumstances and the amount of times this has occurred, this may range from a verbal warning to instant dismissal; however, the employer must follow the correct policies or they could find themselves with an unfair dismissal claim on their hands.

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