How to manage staff sickness

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According to a news article from the Independent – UK workers took an average of 1.85 days off for illness over the last year.  Younger workers took the most time off, with those aged 16 to 34 taking an average of 2.68 days off.

Staff taking days off sick has a considerable effect on any business, but even more so for a childcare businesses. Not having a full team means that continuity of care for children is impacted and the cost of hiring in agency staff can run up huge additional costs.

There are 3 main types of sickness absence:

  • occasional short term
  • long term
  • frequent short term

The third type of sickness absence – frequent short term – is arguably the one which impacts a business the most. If a member of staff is often ill for short periods of time, it’s hard for the employer to plan for when they’ll be off and find cover at short notice.

So, how should you manage sickness in your childcare business? First of all, make sure you have a sickness absence policy in place, which all your employees should have a copy of. Your policy should clearly outline:

  • how someone should report their sickness and to who
  • the time frame they should notify someone of their sickness
  • whether they’re allowed to take holiday days in lieu of sickness
  • whether they should provide updates to their line manager whilst they’re off
  • what happens on their return (for example: have a ‘return to work’ interview or fill in a form documenting details of their absence)

Return to work interviews can be really helpful to discourage people from taking frequent short term days off sick. They also give the business evidence of the person’s sickness, allowing them to identify any issues so they can provide their member of staff with extra support as needed. These meetings also allow the employee and their line manager to put together a plan of action to help manage their absence in the future.

As a business, it’s vitally important that you keep track of when your staff are ill. Even if you don’t feel there’s any cause for concern, it’s good practice to document any absences just in case you need to pursue a formal disciplinary process in the future.

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