National Sickie Day 2018 – How should employers deal with absence in the workplace

It has been reported that traditionally, the first Monday in February is the day in which the greatest number of employees in the UK take the day off due to illness.

It is suggested that this is down to a number of factors; this is the first pay weekend since Christmas, meaning a lot of people have been out celebrating all weekend. Another theory suggests that employees tend to revaluate their career paths in January, therefore, a lot of these sickies are to attend interviews.

After browsing the web, the top 10 ridiculous excuses include:

(1)    I can’t come in today; my flatmates took the door handle off and I can’t get out

(2)    All of my work clothes are wet

(3)    I’ve managed to secure a parking space outside my house and I can’t risk losing it

(4)    Goats got into my garden

(5)    I’m stuck in the bathroom

(6)    My mum was hoovering the stairs and I couldn’t get past

(7)    My hamster is poorly

(8)    Death of relative (relative later to be found alive and well)

(9)    My trousers split on the way in

(10) I swallowed a hot sausage last night and it burnt my throat so badly

So, what action can employers take to pull the duvet off malingering employees?


Is absenteeism an issue in your workplace?

This can be a difficult issue to tackle, especially because employee absences can occur for a number of different reasons.

Employers should:

  • Ensure attendance expectations are clearly set; this solution may be as simple as having clear drafted attendance policies
  • Enforce attendance policies consistently; it can be tempting for employers to allow more absences than the workplace policy states when an employee is facing a difficult situation. It is recommended that employers implement a policy that has flexibility built into it so I can be easily enforced throughout the workforce
  • Ensure all employees know what steps to take when they are going to be off sick; employees should be aware of who to contact, what time the contact should be made and what information should be provided. In addition, they should be aware of what documentation they will be required to provide (if any) when they return
  • Monitor absences; doing this allows employers to keep a note of absences and identify any patterns or trends
  • Carry out return to work interviews; these interviews should be conducted after every absence in the workplace. Employers should use return to work interviews to; welcome the employee back to work and check they are well enough to resume their duties


Presenteeism, or going into work while sick can cause lack of productivity, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics.

Therefore, employees who turn up sick to work, can have a significant and costly impact on the organisation, not only in terms of spreading the illness, but in terms of diminished productivity, quality of work and attention to safety.

Employers should:

  • Send sick employees home
  • Educate employees on the importance of staying at home when poorly
  • Promote health and well-being in the workplace
  • Foster a culture that discourages employees from coming into work when sick
  • Review current workplace policies

Employment Law Support for Employers

Presenteeism, like absenteeism, has only negative impacts on your workforce and the business as a whole. However, the issue can be avoided if addressed correctly.

Employment Law Services (ELS) offer training courses for employers on managing absence. As well as this, our legal experts can help your organisation address any underlying issues you may be facing.

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.