Doctor, doctor

Tesco is running trials to see how it can improve its unplanned absences. In the trials, which involve voluntary participation, the retailer is not paying for the first three days of a staff member’s sickness. Here’s what other HR professionals had to say on the subject.

Bronte Blomhoj
People person, smoothie drinks firm Innocent Drinks

Tesco’s latest move to do with sick leave is not how we do things. But we are lucky to be small – only 45 staff – and we pay sick leave straight away.

At Fruit Towers, we believe that everybody is an individual, therefore, the way we view sickness is the same way.

We ask that if someone is ill, they call us in the morning so we can let everybody know they will not be in so they don’t let the team down.

After some days, we ask for a self-certification note for the records, and if someone is really sick, over the eight days, we ask for a doctor’s note.

We are fortunate to be able to look at each case of long-term sickness based on the individual, like when a worker was ill earlier this year and couldn’t make it in for some time. We just wanted him to get well soon and we were all worried about him.

Our handbook says that if you drink lots of smoothies, you tend not to get sick and we believe that if you are healthy inside and make sure you eat lots of fruit and vegetables, you can keep sickness to a minimum.

Adrian Roberts
HR manager, engineering firm INA Bearing

We have an arrangement that discriminates to some extent against those who have taken sick leave over a certain percentage threshold in the year. They have to have a waiting period up to a maximum of three days before receiving sick pay.

We’ve had our sick policy in place for about six years and we haven’t had many problems. Our staff can be away for up to six months and we have some permanent health insurance for key personnel if they are off sick longer than six months.

We are keen on rehabilitation for the returning sick person. We look at each case and see what he or she is capable of to start with, maybe lighter duties.

We are also keen to bring in line management in case managers are better suited in some ways in keeping in touch with the sick person than the human resources department.

Philip Willatt
HR director, London Business School

It’s Tesco’s sector that makes it take a more blunt approach to sick leave. Our new staff get sick pay paid at basic salary during any unavoidable absence due to sickness from day one for a period of three months in any 12-month period. This will increase to six months after a full year of service.

We very much rely on line managers to monitor who is off sick and to see them when they return to check what they are able to do on return.

We’ve had no complaints about our sickness policy but if there were we would continue to monitor and ask the employee to see their doctor.

We are considering re-evaluating our sick leave policy and  giving it more attention. We want prompt notification of illness to the line manager who keeps HR informed about how things are going.

We find that the Data Protection Act affects sick leave — you have to think through who is going to have sight of reports, etc.

We are lucky as we have 500 staff and most work in an office so accidents are less of an issue. In an SME, illness must involve more robust management as it will make more of an impact on fewer staff.

Heather Williams
Director, cosmetic retailer Lush

We don’t pay any sick leave at all, not even for the first three days. We pay statutory sick pay and abide by all the rules to do with that.

Our company couldn’t manage the costs our 1,600 employees might involve if we had a sick pay policy.

We have a lot of students work in the shops and we have many transient workers. I don’t think it is something we’d introduce even if we were big and making more profit.

We like to be innovative when it comes to our staff. We expect the managers to take responsibility for staff illness.

We lay great emphasis on flexible working, so if someone felt sick one morning he or she could change his shift and take time off to be sick without being out of pocket. Similarly, if someone wants to spend the day on the beach they can juggle their working days.

Lush was voted the 10th best place to work in the UK by The Sunday Times and I don’t think our employees, who are mostly under 30, have a problem with our no sick leave stance.

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