Absence from Work
In an ideal world, nobody would ever be missing work. Unfortunately, this world is not ideal, and absenteeism in the workplace is something that all employers, large and small, have to deal with. People do have to take time off work for hundreds of different reasons. Genuine absences are most commonly because of illness, mental health problems, and personal bereavement.
Any good employer will graciously accept that their employees occasionally have to take a leave of absence. Knowing this, some people will take advantage and abuse their right to compassionate and sick leave. If you suspect someone at your company is lying about the reasons for their absence, you should begin an employee investigation. A private investigator can help you with this.
What is Absenteeism?
Absenteeism is repeated or sustained, absence from work without justification. According to the Office for National Statistics, absenteeism rates fell to their lowest rates ever in 2020. This decline is attributed to the dramatic increase in working from home. As we return to the office, absenteeism is expected to return with a vengeance.
What’s a Good Reason for Absence?
UK employment laws are open to interpretation, but you’re expected to be reasonable when it comes to accepting employee absences. You must allow employees some time off for sickness, to look after their family, and to grieve the loss of someone close to them. Some people will try to abuse this right and lie that one of these reasons justifies their absence.
Forms of absenteeism include falsely claiming to be unwell, inventing a bereavement or dependent, or otherwise fabricating and exaggerating personal issues and the genuine need for time off.
Compassionate Alternative to Asking for Proof
While you can ask for legal proof that this absence is justified, like a death certificate, you might feel uncomfortable broaching the topic with your employee. If they are genuinely experiencing personal problems, the last thing they need is their employer harassing them for evidence and threatening them with dismissal.
If your situation sounds like the one we’ve just described, there is an alternative way for you to determine whether the absence is justified or not. Reduced productivity from long term absence can be very costly to your business. Your willingness to absorb that loss probably depends on whether your employee is genuine.
By hiring a private investigator to conduct a workplace investigation, you can discreetly decide whether the time your employee is taking off is justified. A PI can conduct covert surveillance to make sure that they really are doing what they claim to be while on sick or compassionate leave. If your suspicions were unfounded, your employee could return to work none the wiser.
I've Got Proof of Employee Absenteeism; What Now?
If your surveillance agent has managed to get evidence that your employee is unjustifiably absent from work, you might be wondering what to do next.
While not always obvious, an employee could make countless challenges to your evidence. It’s vital that you don’t try to dismiss them unfairly. Before you do anything, you should take the investigation report to your HR professionals if you have them. If not, it’s good practice to check with an independent HR consultant that you do, in fact, have grounds for immediate dismissal.
Suppose you make it clear from the outset that your internal investigations might include surveillance. In that case, you’re likely to deter dishonest employees from taking up with your business in the first place. Still, there are other things you can do to reduce absenteeism.
By fostering a healthy workplace environment, you make sure your employees feel comfortable being transparent about their needs for time off. Communicating with employees honestly and directly about their entitlement to time off, as well as incentivising full attendance, will dramatically reduce the rates of absenteeism in your business. Other helpful strategies to consider implementing include:
- Offering paid time off for healthcare, like doctor and dentist appointments.
- Offering more than the legal minimum for paid time off.
- Giving the option of flexible working hours.
- Improving Working conditions.
Remember, if your employees feel valued, they’re more likely to want to come to work.