With an increase of workers using technology and social media to call in sick, Paul Tooth, CEO of BrightHR, offers his advice on how to use technology to your advantage

Recently, technology has been blamed for the increase in people taking ‘sickies’ due to the rise of many employers becoming more lenient; accepting text messages, emails or social media messages from staff who plan to take the day off. With staff using such methods to “call in sick”, recordings of absences can sometimes go missing which can lead to problems further down the line.

Our research at BrightHR has shown that sick leave costs UK employers around £11 billion a year - which works out at over £500 per employee - so it’s very important that business owners recognise patterns of sickness in their workforce so that they can work to reduce it.

With that said, you shouldn’t ask your team to battle through when they are feeling unwell. Businesses should be encouraging employees to go home if they are ill and make it clear that coming in when they are unwell, with a potentially contagious illness, is not acceptable. Not only do they risk spreading the bug to the rest of the team, they’ll actually reduce their own level of productivity over a longer period!

Keeping track of staff sick days can seem like a daunting task, especially when managing a big team. But this is where technology can be used to your advantage. The popularity of online people management systems has shown that understanding patterns in your team’s absences shouldn't be underestimated; it can play a crucial role in understanding how an employee is feeling and be the first step towards resolving the problem.

Top tips for dealing with ‘sickies’

Keep lines of communication open – If you feel an employee is taking a number of prolonged or unexplained sick days, first establish why and if their illness will affect their return to work. Maintain contact, but don’t badger them while they are absent.

Have a clear sickness policy in placeIf a clear and fair policy is in place, then guidelines can be followed when dealing with sickness absences.

Keep detailed records – If a business is able to manage absenteeism effectively and identify patterns of absenteeism, this may highlight particular departments which are having problems. One way in which to do this is to ensure that Fit Notes or return to work forms are requested and recorded in the correct manner. Once employees are well enough to return to work, employers should request this.

Consider flexible working – By allowing employees to take periods of leave to help them cope better with their illness, it may aid their rehabilitation back to work. If they are feeling unwell, but well enough to work, perhaps the suggestion of working from home may be beneficial.

Return to work interviews – ACAS has recommended that return to work interviews should be carried out in terms of ill health absence. Remember, these should be handled sensitively to understand the reason why the employee has been absent from work.

Once you recognise a pattern, you can start looking at ways you can work towards reducing your team’s sick days. At BrightHR, our absence management software helps you to log sickness, stay compliant and track patterns as well as giving advice on employment law should an employee illness become a problem.

To find out more about how to deal with employee sickness issues, download the Planning for Unplanned Absence Guide here