Metroline West Ltd v Ajaj; Ajaj v Metroline West Ltd

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A recent study by Automatic Data Processing (ADP) revealed that 27% of UK employees thought it was acceptable to 'pull a sickie'; the European average is 21%. Fraudulent sickness absence is unacceptable. It costs you money by reducing your productivity and your profit. It also damages the morale of those left to pick up the slack. So, what should you do?

Set clear rules

Ensure that all your employees know when, how and to whom they should report their absence, what evidence they must provide and what you will do if they don't. Accurately record the amount, time and reasons for absence so that you can identify patterns. Make it clear that you will discipline those who take time off work without good cause or without providing appropriate notification.

Enforce the rules

Non-attendance feeds on neglect. Line managers should hold a return-to-work interview after every period of absence. This practice has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of encouraging reliable attendance. Managers should ask, and record, why the employee was absent, the reason they were absent and whether the employee visited their doctor. They should use the opportunity to check whether your employee followed your reporting rules. If your employee knows that they will have to justify their absence to their line manager, they will be discouraged from casual unnecessary absence.

Sick pay

Maintaining discretion overpaying company sick pay can be a useful tool for managing absence because you can decline or withdraw payment when it is appropriate. As with exercising any discretion, managers must be consistent and fair to defeat allegations of bias or discrimination. Provide written guidelines on the factors to consider when deciding whether to award company sick pay so that decisions are transparent and the risk of a dispute is reduced.

Discipline

When your employee takes time off without good reason, fails to report their absence correctly or fails to provide the required certification you should treat it as a disciplinary matter. Investigate the reasons for suspicion to assess whether they have merit, distinguish between fact and rumour, and ensure that you comply with your internal disciplinary procedures.

Pulling a sickie is an issue of misconduct rather than capability so disciplinary action must be founded on reasonable grounds after a reasonable investigation. If it is not, it would break the bond of trust and confidence that must exist in order for you to continue an effective working relationship. This is confirmed by case law in Metroline West Ltd v Ajaj; Ajaj v Metroline West Ltd