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The first Monday of February is proven to be the day that UK workers are the most likely to ring in sick.

Reasons include:

  • Gloomy weather
  • Post-festive blues
  • Seasonal illnesses

It’s well-known that conditions such as depression and anxiety can affect people more severely in the winter, with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affecting 10-20% of people who suffer with depression.

SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.

People with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

the term ‘sickie’ implies that employees are being dishonest by calling in sick, mental health advocates highlight the stigma that unfortunately still exists around mental-health issues leads many employees to use other illnesses they think may be deemed more ‘acceptable’ as their stated reasons for not coming into work.

Approximately 600,000 workers called in sick in 2020, costing employers an estimated £45,000,000.

Workers calling in sick citing their reasons as mental-health related are shown to be more likely to lie to their employers than those with a physical ailment. This is just one of a plethora of reasons that employers must do their bit to emphasise the importance of mental health and reduce the stigma around it.

Mental health isn’t the only type of absence that generally gains little sympathy with employers. Only 42% of senior managers agreed that having the flu was a valid reason to stay home. However, it’s been proven that having a day off when not feeling well can be more productive for the workforce in the long run, as coming into work sick can unnecessarily spread germs amongst colleagues and customers.

How to counteract National Sickie Day

  • Ensure you’ve got a robust absence management policy in place

This sets expectations out clearly to staff and creates a sense of fairness where the policy is applied consistently amongst the workforce. It also helps to keep tabs on how many sickness absence days are being taken for each employee. Whether through a spreadsheet or absence management portal, it’s easier to pick up on when sickness absence days are becoming excessive if absence is regularly monitored.

  • Integrate with your team

Apart from the obvious benefits integrating with your team will result in, team integration will also offer Employers better opportunity to pick up energy levels and gauge the team atmosphere, in turn this can be a good method of predicting absence and helping prevent it. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between an employee with a busy social calendar who’s using days like National Sickie Day to their advantage (and of course manage this appropriately) and an employee who’s suffering from burnout and needs a day off from exhaustion.

  • Don’t be scared of formal process

We find employers are often worried that by delving into reasons for sickness absence, they may be impinging on employee privacy, and opening themselves up to various potential discrimination claims. Although of course absence management processes need to be carried out appropriately to mitigate any risk of this, following formal processes is a must when you’ve exhausted avenues such as informal meetings, letters of concern etc. It ensures fairness across the workforce and may act as a deterrent to ‘repeat offenders’. Of course, we always encourage our clients to speak to us so we can advise the best avenue to take when managing absence, as there are lots of valid reasons that employees may have repeated sickness absence also.

National Sickie Day remains a popular talking point and excuse for people to take a day off, comforted by the fact that others are likely doing the same.

If you’re affected by this topic, Supportis specialise in HR, employment law and health and safety advice for UK employers. Give our friendly team a no obligation, free call today on 0161 603 2156.

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