Apart from those of us that actually come to work for a rest, no employee could deny that they would enjoy more long weekends.
However, some workers take having extended weekends off to an extreme. So much so that certain HR Managers and organisations have systems set up to highlight employees who are repeatedly absent from work on a Friday or a Monday, an ailment now referred to as “Mondayitus” and “Fridayitus”!
“Fridayitus” is usually a result of an individual wanting a day off to extend their weekend, whereas “Mondayitus” is usually a consequence of burning the candle at both ends. However, regardless of the reasons for “Fridayitus” and “Mondayitus”, it costs organisations in the UK millions of pounds each year.
Ways to reduce Monday and Friday absences:
So how do you put a stop to the virus?
First of all it is important to identify that it is simply “Fridayitus” and “Mondayitus” and not related to other issues the employee may be having or experiencing outside of work. The best way of addressing this is through your existing sickness absence procedures and policies. Even if you don’t have specific policies and procedures in place, you can still follow simple steps to try and eliminate unwarranted absences.
It is crucial to record absences so that you can pick up on any patterns. Once identified, employers should ensure that they have return to work interviews after each absence. Having an employee fill out an Absence Return Form may not be sufficient to eliminate the serial Friday and Monday absence offenders. There is no reason why an employee cannot be called in and asked why they have been absent, and told that it has come to your attention that their absences are always on a Friday or a Monday or a combination of both.
Some employers hold a return to work interview for every absence no matter how short. Meanwhile, others only hold them in cases of longer absences of a week or more. However, the interviews, which only have to be informal and last a few minutes, could ultimately help reduce short term absences. Whichever way you decide to proceed, you should ensure that you are consistent in your approach and treat all employees the same, so that no individual feels that they are being singled out. This will also eliminate any potential discrimination.
If employees know that they are going to be called in after each absence, during which they would have to explain the reason for their absence face to face with a Manager, there is evidence that it acts as a disincentive to take the sickness leave in the first place. The discomfort of having to sit and explain themselves and know that they are being monitored could break their pattern of sick leave.
What steps should you take next?
If employees don’t heed to this process, then employers may have to take matters further and instigate a formal procedure under their disciplinary or capability policies on a formal basis.
Most employers will have a threshold whereby a specific number of absences on Fridays and Mondays become unacceptable due to the disruption it causes their business. Having trigger points in your policies and procedures which leads to a formal procedure is always helpful and should be encouraged.
At the formal meetings you should always start out by investigating whether there are any underlying health issues, regardless of discussions that have been held previously with the individual in return to work interviews. Managers should also be mindful that absences may not always relate to somebody’s medical health or home life, it could be as a result of what is happening in the workplace. It is also advisable to explain to the employee the affect their absences have on the business, the people they work with, or the department they are in.
If there are no serious issues then a warning should be given following a fair procedure, setting out time scales and suggestions for improvement in attendance. This should also be accompanied with a clear explanation as to what the consequences are, if no improvement is achieved within the specified period of time.
If no improvement is then made, employers can proceed through their internal procedures by giving written warnings and final written warnings, leading up to dismissal if necessary.
Alternatively you can introduce “duvet days”!
Author: Shiva Shadi is Head of Employment at dbf-law.co.uk, where she is able to use her experience in handling a broad range of employment matters to advice and guide businesses through any issues that they face.