Rethinking Attitudes to Sick Leave in 2018

Guest Blog by Polly of Inspiring Interns

Worries about workplace stress levels, trying to avoid tribunal situations, and panicking about the latest rumoured superbug can all leave HR departments on high alert for anything to do with sick leave. But if you constantly comb the news headlines, you can find yourself as stressed as the people you’re there to help, because of the sheer volume of information on the internet, and the amount of so-called internet experts. Here are the news stories you actually need to focus on.


Staff need more information about SSP

A recent survey by Direct Line Life Insurance found that only 8% of employees had even heard of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and only 4% know how much they are entitled to. In fact, 43% of firms surveyed said their staff would receive SSP after two weeks’ absence due to ill health. Over one third of firms would pay bonuses on a pro-rata basis, according to how much sick leave a staff member had taken.
The lesson? Don’t assume your staff know what your policy is, and what they’re entitled to. Save headaches all round by having a clear sick pay policy that everyone can understand. This means people will raise fewer queries further down the line.


Science suggests supportive colleagues create a positive return to work

When a staff member is returning to work after being unwell, you might assume they will judge how easily they transition to the workplace on how they get on with their manager – after all, he or she will be doing a return to work interview, making adjustments as necessary – or how their physical recovery is going. But a psychological study by the University of East Anglia and the University of Stockholm has found that a worker feels most supported on their return to the office if their colleagues are supportive.

The study found that a lack of ‘social support’ in the workplace made returning workers feel they were being treated unfairly. If someone feels excluded from the team after illness, or their colleagues don’t make an effort to help them reintegrate, this has a very negative impact on their wellbeing. Combat this by drawing up strategies for managers and emphasising that no-one should feel left out on their return to work.


Don’t underestimate sickness data
The Financial Times reported last month on the advantages of studying sick leave data, so you can spot wider patterns in the organisation, from bad managers creating stress and unhappiness, to flu bugs doing the rounds.

Of course, this data can be used to spot dodgy dealings by employees, and issues to be taken up in performance reviews, but it can also spot the everyday health niggles that could be avoided with a little forward planning. For example, multiple reports of stomach bugs from neighbouring teams may point to a staff kitchen with hygiene problems. By analysing the data, you can make drastic changes to improve workplace culture.


Keep an eye on ‘chosen family’ policies in the USA

A new law in several US states and major cities is worth your attention, in case it becomes of interest to UK lawmakers. It allows federal workers to nominate friends or neighbours as their ‘chosen family’, in the absence of nearby blood relations, and take leave to care for them if necessary, perhaps taking them to a hospital appointment or helping them recover from an operation.

They don’t gain bonus days for doing this – it’s a case of using the sick leave they are already entitled to. Such leaves of absence wouldn’t have a negative effect on a company, but they would ensure workers felt valued by their employer and could support sick friends or neighbours through difficult times.

As you well know, the world of HR is ever-changing, but it pays to keep on top of the major news stories in the industry, so you’re prepared for developments to come.

Polly writes for Inspiring Interns, where you can source candidates for UK internships. To browse their listings for graduate jobs in London , visit their website.

Author: Editorial Team

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