Attend to attendance and the rest will follow

HR departments battling to improve attendance figures in their organisations will not have welcomed comments from the Amicus union last week, explaining to members how to throw a sickie during the World Cup and get away with it.

Its argument was that it was very difficult to prove if someone was not really ill, as most organisations have policies where staff can self-certificate for taking just one day off sick. The question of whether sickness is genuine or not raises all kinds of trust issues. Even when doctors issue sicknotes, they generally take the patient at their word. But now GPs, who have in the past been accused of “handing out sicknotes like confetti” (see Doctors slam employers’ ‘cop out’ over sicknotes), are fighting back. They say employers are using sicknotes to avoid their managerial responsibilities, and they no longer want to “back up the excuse culture of society”. Doctors argue that businesses should take more responsibility for their workers’ health, instead of putting the onus on GPs to decide whether an employee is fit to go back to work.

Rather than fostering distrust and deceit in the workplace – which could have a knock-on effect for those who are off work with genuine illness – perhaps the union could have suggested more creative solutions to employers, such as offering flexitime, or the chance to watch matches in the workplace (see World Cup should be viewed as opportunity, not a threat).

It’s undeniable that there has been a frenzy of World Cup-related news stories – in fact it’s hard to get away from them – and Amicus is not alone in using the football tournament as a hook for generating some newspaper headlines. But the problem of sickness absence – real or otherwise – doesn’t just come along for four weeks every four years; it is a real and constant threat to UK business (see Are you making your staff ill?). The fact that the World Cup has put it into such sharp focus, however, could perhaps provide renewed vigour in how you tackle it.

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