Taking a sickie: how will you deal with weddingitis?

14th April 2011

Taking a sickie: how will you deal with weddingitis?

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With the Royal wedding looming, our thoughts turned to those employees who are not getting the day off and just how many of them might suffer from a sudden stomach bug or bad cold. Short-term sickness absence can cost a business a lot of lost time and money, particularly if you pay full salary for a period of absence. Is there anything you can do to stop employees taking a day off on 29th April? 

We have already commented on whether employees are entitled to a day off on 29th April. (http://employease.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/bank-holiday-on-29th-april-2011-are-you-prepared/)

If your employees do not have a contractual entitlement to a day off on 29th April, you may let them take the day off but deduct it from their annual holiday entitlement, or more problematic, ask them to work on 29th April.

It is likely that most businesses will close on the day unless you have a very good reason to be opened (for example if you have a souvenir shop near Westminster Abbey.) If you have decided to stay open, how can you ensure that your staff turns up on the day?

The first thing to think about is the carrot. It will be more damaging to your business to dismiss the employees who do not turn up than to ensure that they do turn up. A one off bonus may be more efficient than the stick of disciplinary action.

If you have told your staff that you are not giving them a day off on 29th April, you may want to remind them that they also shouldn’t just decide not to turn up on the day. A bit of planning and communication now will help you ensure that your employees are at work and being productive.

If you decide that you are not closing your business for the day, we would recommend that you:

  • Tell your employees as soon as possible that you are not closing the business for the day.
  • Explain why.
  • Be prepared for a flurry of holiday requests and be flexible where possible. It is better that someone’s absence comes off their holiday entitlement rather than as a sick day.
  • Be clear with staff about your expectations regarding attendance. If you will discipline staff if they take the day off regardless, tell them ahead of the day.

Many businesses will consider allowing staff to watch the wedding on a TV at work. You are of course entitled to ban the wedding from your offices. Watching the Royal wedding is not a human right. However, you may find you reduce the numbers of staff off sick with weddingitis, if you permit those who want to, to watch the wedding at work.

If you decide to permit employees to watch on your TV or at their desks, be clear about the rules. We would advise a note to all staff setting out your ground rules. This can include:

  • Where and for how long will they be able to watch the wedding;
  • Your position on whether you will permit alcohol – there is no need to repeat the potential dangers of allowing alcohol in the workplace, so if you do decide to allow it, be clear on what terms;
  • A reminder that clients come first and they can’t ignore the phones or customers;
  • Expectations about behaviour, so no arguing about the dress.

If you do have anyone calling in sick, take a note of the absence reason and arrange for a return to work interview the following week. Be clear that the employee will have to explain the reason for their absence to your face and will have to complete a self-certification form with you. Check the employee’s sickness record. Most employers pay for a number of days’ absence in any 12 month period. Make sure that you pay the appropriate amount for the day’s absence. Use the disciplinary procedure in circumstances where you believe and have evidence that the employee was not sick. (Watch TV you may be able to spot a few of them in the crowds).

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