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How does HR manage employees whose absence patterns or other evidence suggest they are malingerers? Catharine Cooksley looks at recent legal cases and provides four steps that employers can take to deal with the problem.
Managing sickness absence is rarely a straightforward task and dealing with someone that you suspect is not genuinely ill has always been at the trickier end of the scale.
We have all seen it happen – the colleague whose weekend of hard partying regularly translates into a "stomach bug" on Monday morning; the workmate who conveniently develops a migraine whenever a deadline looms. But proving that Jim in accounts is day-tripping at Thorpe Park rather than languishing at home with a bad back is not easy.
Line managers are always keen to present their suspicions about malingerers to HR, not least to address the perceived unfairness to colleagues.
Press them for credible evidence, however, and they tend to go quiet. This makes taking disciplinary action for misconduct very difficult.
Step 1: Identify and assess potential evidence
The first step when dealing with suspected malingerers is to identify and capture available evidence to support the suspicions.
An employer who has evidence that an employee is being dishonest by claiming to be off sick when he or she is not may be able to discipline or dismiss for misconduct. As this is usually a quicker and easier route to follow than using a capability/absence management procedure, it can seem attractive.
In the past, gaining credible evidence has proved problematic for employers. Mere suspicions and rumours will not suffice to establish misconduct. However, the burgeoning of social media over recent years has the potential to provide a generou