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Absence issues for employee(18 Posts)
Hi, just asking for some advice.
We are a small employer, 8 employees. I feel we treat our employees extremely well, we are generous with entitlements and flexible (no one ever seems to leave!).
Our newest employee has been with us 8 months and works just 10 hours in an admin role, with some unpacking of goods and booking supplies in.
Said employee has had significantly more time off than any one else has had ever, despite most being with us over a decade (!). Currently off work for three weeks for voluntary surgery. We have supported this fully and covering the role, and also paying salary (nominal figures really). Made reasonable adjustments for medical reasons.
In addition, the childcare provision in place is via grandparents but can often be withdrawn at the last minute. We try to accommodate this by allowing the employee to work a different day or take holiday to cover but it does leave a burden on the rest of the team.
I'm basically nervous re the lack of reliability and absence time already. There are a couple of issues re mobile phones and some errors that I'm happy to pick up verbally but these are less of a concern.
I'm trying to decide whether the fact that our other employees are just super loyal and reliable that I'm being unreasonable (we genuinely treat them all really well, we value their commitment immensely).
Am I reasonably entitled to request that childcare is reliable? Can I mention the level of absence already?
We are small and busy and stretched as most small firms are but hoping to also look into contracting to HR advice type agency to help with contractual issues etc but wondered really if I'm being unfair?
Bit late now, but a probation period would have been ideal here to raise performance issues at an earlier stage, bear that in mind for the future.
I don't think you are being unfair by the sound of it. Perhaps time to seek some advice and then have a meeting with the employee about it - outlining the affect it is having on other staff and that going forward, you will be less able to adjust her days of work. Is the absence related to the reasonable adjustments?
Do you have a formal leave, absence and sickness policy? You are entitled to have a discussion about her absence record during a return to work interview. Do not get involved in specifics of childcare arrangements. If she is contracted to work specific hours/days that is something you can enforce and describe the impact her being unreliable is having. She is taking advantage of you by not paying for childcare or at least having a back up plan.
Apologies for the delay in response.
Yes, the absence was due to the reasonable adjustments. The surgery was denied on the NHS, I'm not convinced it will solve the issue and not involve more absence but I can't know that obviously and am prepared to see how that goes. We've provided specific furniture and taken away anything too physical, the latter compromises us the most as it encroaches on someone else's role significantly.
Our formal policies are way out of date. We have been aware of this for a long while but , in truth, we haven't had any employment issues since 2003, when the business started and the last year has been manically busy so back burner it went. That sounds dreadful written down, and something we need to address - small businesses don't sadly have the resources sometimes to be on top of everything that we should be. That's not really an excuse, it ought to have been done.
I must stress the surgery was not in any way suggested by us, entirely a personal decision, paid for privately, that has necessitated three weeks at least off work. Which we have obviously supported this though.
I would look for an outsourced HR company to advise you - absolutely amazing and it gives you peace of mind and also should underwrite any liability you have...
anything to do with employment means being very structured and deliberate - and non-emotional. It sounds as though you have the right intention, but especially where helping one member of staff affects another you do have to be careful to get it right...
I would definitely go to a professional HR company who will tell you exactly how to proceed legally and fairly.
Whilst I do love our UK laws on working and fair treatment to employees, I also feel saddened that there are some people who take full advantage of those rules and consistent work attendance is an inconvenience to them and they will make little effort to be there. Calling in sick was only ever reserved for the really, truly ill days for me and DH. DH's colleague however will be off at least once a week. In their first few months of work they've had bronchitis, 24hr bugs, "flu", sprained ankle, knee injury plus many more. He lives next door to us and I can say that he gets around just fine on those days.
Work just isn't a priority and according to him, his employers are sooooo unreasonable expecting him to come in when X or Y is wrong with him. Greedy slave-driving bastards not caring about their employees. Terrible!
What does the employees contract say about sick pay? In the 1st instance I would suggest you only pay statutory sick pay for any further time off if the contract is worded as such and you are not obliged to pay full pay.
I'd also suggest that you have a meeting with this employee pretty soon to discuss their amount of leave and their hours. This would give you a basis to start disciplinary procedures if needed. I'd suggest you tell them that whilst you could be flexible in an emergency or the very occasional one off you expect them to meet the hours of their contract.
It is easier to dismiss an employee in their 1st year of employment so whatever you are going to do I'd get a move on if they are already at 8 months with no formal discussion about these issues.
Are you a part of any local small business groups? There may be people there that can also offer you support and advice.
I think a key thing to bear in mind is that businesses are expected to make reasonable adjustments, and what constitutes as reasonable will depend on the business and the role. Eg part time admin assistant in large firm employing 1000s of people needs a reduced workload, sick leave and specialist furniture - likely to be reasonable given then size of the company, its profits etc.
However you are a very small employer and I think you’ve been incredibly generous, unnecessarily so. For example, reducing some of her work to a point where it impacts on another employee is not ‘reasonable’ (IMO). Her lack of reliability in attendance, outside of the sickness (eg due to childcare issues), is not something you have to accommodate. In the end, you have a role that needs fulfilling and if she can’t do the role as required, even with some reasonable adjustments (eg specific furniture), then she just can’t do the role. She’s not been with you long and you are entitled to dismiss - on the basis of following dismissal procedure correctly (in line with legal requirements and whatever you have written into your policies, eg giving her a first warning, expectations on how she can improve/specific areas of improvement etc).
Btw I think it’s great that you want to be such a nice employer! I commend that, a lot of employers don’t make the effort - however in this instance I think you’re giving more than you can realistically offer as a small business. FWIW I work for a very large employer and we would also not support this level of unreliability - it simply isn’t conducive to running the business.
PS I’m not saying you should accommodate all sick absence btw, just distinguishing between the fact that she hasn’t just been unreliable in attendance due to sickness but is also unreliable for other reasons. Most companies have a limit as to how much absence is permissible including sick absence, they may permit a higher level if related to a disability or in an exceptional circumstance such as a one off surgery but you’re not expected to keep an employee endlessly just because their absence is sickness related.
Are you a member of the FSB? Federation of Small Businesses.
They are very helpful.
Thanks all for the detailed and knowledgeable responses.
I feel a little naive in truth! We've always wanted to be decent, fair and flexible employees. It's genuinely worked so far in that all our other employees are loyal, flexible, happy and will go that extra mile when needed, which is often given the industry that we are in. The number of employees that have long periods of service probably does mean we see them as more than employee at times, which I can see is a disadvantage.
We have a good network of small business colleagues and are also members of the FSB.
Ironically, we outsource the other aspects our work that require specialist knowledge - payroll, pensions, accounting/tax. We need to look at HR too.
Highlighting that it's unfair on one specific employee (as well as myself, I'm covering the basic admin at present but that's irrelevant) has made me think in a different way so I'm glad to discuss this, this employee has queried whether it's working re the absent employee.
And yes - this needs to be non emotional and entirely about employment.
Whilst I admire your attitude to your employees you do need to consider that you should be careful when you are being "Fair and decent" that you are not setting a precedent that people can later take advantage of.
I think you have very just cause to give this employee a verbal warning at the least to begin with but be careful you have not allowed others the same privileges without disciplining them too.
Also it's absolutely fine to be flexible if it means you are still meeting the needs of the business. As you have already highlighted yourself that this employee is not meeting the needs of the business it is entirely fair that you should address this directly with them.
The FSB will advise you on this issue I think.
I feel a flood of cvs coming your way! Sounds like a dream job.
You are prioritising the needs of this person over your other employees and your business.
ACAS would also be able to advise but you would be within your rights to have a back to work interview and set expectations for future leave, emergency, sickness or otherwise within the next few months and set a date for the next review.
You are also within the 2 years where you can give this person notice for no reason.
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