Seeing a post or photo of an employee socializing is not an out of place occurrence in a modern age. However, this can be an issue when the employee in question is signed off as unwell or absent from work. Are they faking illness? Is it genuine?
In this month’s Wurkplace blog, we will look deeper at how employers can assess and respond to these situations.
It might be easy to conclude that an employee may not be telling the truth when calling in sick. It is a common expectation amongst employees who are on sick leave that they must remain in their home. However, this notion that employees must not leave their home in order to qualify for sick days is incorrect. As an employer it is very important to understand that the way you choose to handle the employee depends on the reason that they are absent. Not all health issues will affect an employee’s ability to live their daily life; This goes for the way it may affect their ability to work.
Consider all the possibilities
It is vital that you consider that a qualified professional has told the employee to take time off. This could be a a doctor, therapist, HR manager, or other. Or, they are off sick with depression or anxiety related issues. This may be a tricky situation to navigate, because they may want to maintain their privacy and may not be able to disclose the reason for their absence.
It is also worthwhile to consider if the photos of employees during sick leave were taken recently. It is possible that the employee is in fact resting at home, but still using their social networks to communicate. Employers should not take an accusatory approach to questioning an employee’s activities while off sick, as this can cause unnecessary harm to the employer-employee relationship.
Actions you can take as an Employer
However, if you do suspect that an employee may be lying about their ability to work, you will need clear evidence. Whilst is can be quite difficult to navigate circumstances like these, there are several options that you can explore if you are concerned about an employee taking advantage of sick days. These include:
- Employees are allowed to self-certify for a number of days; However, once this time has passed, they are required to provide a note from their GP.
- It’s possible to address any initial issues with a simple phone call or welfare meeting following a leave of absence. You can conduct a ‘return-to-work’ interview with the employee to find out more and ensure they are fit to return to work. This will not only give you a better idea of why they have been absent but also show the employees that their absence is noticed.
- There may also be complaints from other employees who provide evidence for their complaints. Rumours can circulate regarding the validity of an employee’s absence; This may result in disgruntled staff who believe there may be unfair treatment. Be aware that if you are presented with proof from an employee that another is faking illness, you must then gain permission to use it.
- Remember that as the employer you need to be aware of the implications of checking personal social media accounts. You need to be careful that you are not inadvertently invading the privacy of your employees. Make sure you are familiar with the latest privacy laws and your company’s privacy and social media policies.
- If the scenario is that an employee tells you that they cannot work because they have a broken leg, only to post on social media that they are without crutches in a night club, you may be within your rights as an employer to question the employee’s claims. These social media posts can be used as sufficient evidence when you address this.
- Try to keep a record of any suspicious behaviour by keeping a record of employee absence. This will allow you to see if any patterns develop; For example, perhaps an employee is constantly getting ill around pay day.
Holding an investigation meeting
If you do suspect that an employee is faking illness and have evidence to support your conclusion, then it’s time to hold an investigation meeting. In this meeting, you need to approach the situation calmly and fairly to address the problem before any accusations are made.
Begin by asking if there are any issues outside of work such as home-life problems, grievances with other employees or serious health issues. It could be that the employee is not unwell but cannot disclose the full details of their absence and is taken to faking illness. One example may be if they are dealing with mental health but have said they have a stomach bug. It’s important to be mindful and tread carefully when asking about the sensitive nature behind many illnesses.
If the investigation concludes that the employee has lied about being ill, then the situation may warrant a disciplinary. The employee will have broken the company code of conduct that they agreed to in their employment contract.
If you need help with any of these issues, please contact us via our form. Or get in touch by calling 0330 400 5490!
Working in Marketing at Wurkplace, responsible for producing a variety of brand videos and images. Duties also include producing web content for the company website and social media.