Workplace Absence: An Employer’s Guide
Date: 26th July 2017 | Categories: Wirehouse
An area of Employment Law that we are frequently asked about here at Wirehouse is workplace absence including holiday allowances, statutory sick pay (SSP) and sick leave. It is up to you as the employer to implement absence policies so that your employees are clear about what to do in case of absence and what their entitlements are during a period of absence or sickness.
An Effective Sickness Absence Policy
A recent survey by Aviva found that 70% of UK workers still go to work when they are ill. This means employees are coming in when they are not fit to do so, affecting their productivity and making them liable to a longer period of illness which may be passed onto their colleagues.
Employee contracts must clearly state what is expected of them in the event of a period of sickness. One example of this is that you could ask your staff to phone in at 9am on the day they are off sick so that they cannot decide to take the day off at 10 am after they are already late for work.
It is important that your employees are informed about the company sickness absence policy so they don’t feel the need to come into the workplace if they are ill. However, it is also important for you as an employer to know what UK Employment Law rights and regulations are in place, to enable you to keep your company policies up to date so that if an employee continues to break them you can hold them accountable.
Which Absence Allowances Should you be Aware of?
Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave (including bank holidays) under the Working Time Regulations 1998. This entitlement is split into two different types of leave. In terms of the Working Time Directive, employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks’ annual leave each year. This is often referred to in this note as WTD leave.
The right of employees in the United Kingdom to an additional 1.6 weeks’ annual leave each year is often referred to as additional leave. The distinction is important as additional leave, unlike WTD leave, may be carried forward into the next leave year in accordance with a relevant agreement. Furthermore, holiday pay for WTD leave must be interpreted in line with the ECJ case law and the EAT’s judgment in Bear Scotland.
If your employee pays National Insurance contributions and they have been sick for four or more consecutive days (ignoring whether they are working days or not) you must pay them Statutory Sick Pay. The SSP is a rate that is set by the government. Currently, employees are entitled to £88.45 per week. If you wish to pay over this amount during their sick leave then you can do so on a discretionary basis but it would be clearer and safer to do so in terms of a transparent contractual sick pay scheme.
Employment Law Guidance for Employers
As an employer there can seem to be many different factors to take into account when an employee is on sick leave. The Government provides the following guidance to successfully manage an absence from the workplace including:
- As an employer you are allowed to ask your employee to provide you with a ‘fit note’ or a ‘sick note’ if they have been ill for 7 days or more (including non-working days).
- You cannot force employees to take annual leave when they’re eligible for sick leave although the employee can choose to use up their holidays whilst sick if they are unhappy with the amount of sick pay they are receiving.
- You must make changes to an employee’s working environment if they become disabled because of their sickness. Making these ‘reasonable adjustments’ could include a range of different things such as introducing shorter hours or providing a better space to work in.
How Can Wirehouse Help?
Here at Wirehouse, we specialise in Employment Law which means we can keep you up to date with any issues that may affect your organisation. We can discuss any changes relating to workplace absence and help you to create a policy that works for your business.
For more information about our HR support for SMEs and large organisations alike contact Wirehouse today.