Employee Sickness in the Workplace

Introduction to Employee Sickness in the Workplace

Understanding employee sickness is an essential part of running a successful business. It’s not just about knowing the symptoms of common illnesses; it’s about grasping the wider implications. When an employee is absent due to illness, it can cause disruption. Productivity might take a hit, and the morale of your remaining staff could waver.

  • The common causes of employee sickness vary. They can range from physical illnesses, like the common cold or flu, to mental health conditions, such as stress and anxiety.
  • Employee sickness can impact not only the individual but also the overall business operations.

As an employer, it’s your role to manage these situations effectively. To do this, you need a solid understanding of what employee sickness entails and how it affects your business. Plus, you need to know how to navigate the legal landscape surrounding this sensitive issue.

employee sickness in the workplace

Legal Responsibilities and Rights Concerning Employee Sickness

Employers in the UK have clear legal responsibilities when it comes to employee sickness. Your employees have rights, and you have obligations. It’s crucial to understand these to ensure fair treatment for all and to avoid potential legal pitfalls.

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is one of the main rights of employees who are off sick. This provides financial support for employees who are too ill to work.
  • The Equality Act is another key piece of legislation. It protects employees from discrimination, including on the grounds of disability. This can include sickness related to a disability.
  • Employers also have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for employees with disabilities. This might mean altering their work environment or adjusting their work pattern.

It’s not always easy to determine what constitutes a ‘reasonable adjustment’, especially when dealing with long-term sickness. As an employer, you must strike a balance between supporting the employee and ensuring the continued smooth running of your business.

Understanding Responsibilities

Understanding your legal responsibilities is not just about complying with the law. It’s about creating a supportive, understanding environment where your employees feel valued, even when they’re ill. This can boost morale, improve staff retention, and even enhance your company’s reputation.

  • You’re not just fulfilling your legal obligations, you’re also fostering a positive workplace culture.
  • If your employees see that you take sickness seriously, they’ll feel more confident about their job security, which can reduce anxiety and increase motivation.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into sick pay and sickness absence policies. You’ll discover the essential components and learn how to structure these policies effectively. We’ll also cover how to manage long-term sickness and the process of returning to work after an extended period of illness. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to navigate the complex world of employee sickness with confidence and expertise.

workplace sickness employee

Sick Pay and Sickness Absence Policies: The Essentials

Creating a well-structured sick pay policy and a clear, comprehensive sickness absence policy is vital. These will serve as your guiding documents whenever you’re dealing with sickness-related scenarios in the workplace.

  • Your sick pay policy should outline whether you offer occupational sick pay, which goes beyond the statutory requirements. It’s an attractive benefit but remember to keep business sustainability in mind.
  • Clear eligibility criteria for sick pay and the necessary evidence required, such as a fit note, should be specified.

As for your sickness absence policy, it’s your blueprint for handling absences. It ensures consistency and fairness.

  • Define what constitutes short-term and long-term absences and the procedures for each.
  • Be clear about when formal absence management procedures will kick in.

By having these documents in place, you’re creating a fair, transparent system. It shows your employees that you take their wellbeing seriously. It also helps them understand what’s expected of them, reducing any uncertainty and anxiety surrounding sickness absence.

Effectively Managing Long-Term Sickness and Return to Work

Long-term sickness poses a unique challenge. Communication is key here. Keep in touch with your employee, but ensure the contact is supportive, not intrusive. You should also consider seeking medical advice to understand their condition and estimate a possible return date.

  • Plan for a phased return to work. It can be overwhelming for an employee to go from long-term absence to full-time work immediately.
  • Modify their duties or hours temporarily. It can help ease them back into their role and reduce the risk of relapse.

Keeping the morale and productivity of your remaining team up during an employee’s prolonged absence is crucial.

  • Make sure you communicate effectively with the rest of your team.
  • Manage the additional workload efficiently. It might mean redistributing tasks or even hiring temporary staff.

Remember, your goal is to support your employee’s successful return to work. It’s not just good for them; it’s beneficial for your business too. With a thoughtful, considerate approach, you can manage long-term sickness effectively while maintaining a positive and productive work environment.

Preventing and Reducing Employee Sickness

When it comes to employee sickness, prevention is better than cure. By proactively working to minimise employee sickness, you can reduce absences, improve productivity, and enhance employee satisfaction.

  • Implementing wellness programmes can be highly effective. These can include anything from exercise classes to mental health support services.
  • You might consider improving your workplace conditions. Ensure it’s safe, comfortable, and conducive to good health.

Workplace stress is a common cause of sickness absence. Managing it should be a priority.

  • Encourage open conversations about stress. You can’t address the problem if you don’t know it exists.
  • Training managers in stress management can be particularly helpful. They can then support their team members effectively.

Promoting a healthy work-life balance is another effective strategy. It can prevent burnout, a major cause of long-term sickness.

  • Be flexible where possible. Allowing employees to adapt their work schedule to suit their personal needs can drastically reduce stress levels.
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks and make full use of their annual leave.

By implementing these measures, you’re showing your commitment to employee wellbeing. It’s an investment that yields substantial returns.

  • Improved employee health reduces the risk of sickness absence.
  • Your employees will feel valued and appreciated. This can increase their job satisfaction and loyalty.
  • A happy, healthy workforce is more productive and engaged.


By following these steps, you’re not only minimising employee sickness; you’re also creating a positive, supportive work culture. It’s a win-win situation for both your employees and your business.

Remember, these are general suggestions. Every business is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. It’s important to tailor these strategies to your specific needs and circumstances. You know your business and your employees best.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Managing employee sickness can be complex and challenging, but with a clear understanding of your responsibilities and some proactive measures, you can navigate it successfully. Remember, a happy, healthy workforce is the key to a thriving business. So, invest in your employees’ wellbeing – it’s worth it.

Call John Bloor at EBS Law on 01625 87 4400 if you are an employer and need free advice on Employment Law.