Employees often look for ways to extend their period away from work and may ‘pull a sickie’ immediately before or after their holiday. This can be an attempt to enjoy the holiday they’ve planned without the risk of having their annual leave request refused because it’s too long – but how can you manage this?

The above may occur subject to a team cap or within an annual period which means leave is not granted; factors that may push the employee to dishonestly fake a sick day. If you find out about the employee’s plans to do this prior to their holiday, don’t just ignore it – take action!

How to manage the process

First of all:

  • Invite the employee to an informal meeting and tell them about the rumour you’ve heard.
  • Directly ask them if it’s true.
  • Warn them that if it is, and they follow their plans through resulting in a dishonest sickness, it will be treated as an unauthorised absence.
  • If your absence policy allows you to, you may be able to treat the incident as misconduct and take disciplinary action against them.

Finding out after their leave starts

If you don’t find out prior to the day in question and their absence is unexpected, it’s best to take reasonable steps to try and get in contact with them.

If that’s not possible, ensure that you hold a ‘return to work’ discussion after they come back from their sick leave:

  • Try to determine whether their sickness was genuine by asking them questions regarding their symptoms, treatment, recovery and whether they’re feeling better.
  • Explain why you may be having doubts about the genuine nature of their sickness.
  • Remember that if the sickness absence lasted more than 7 days, the employee should provide you with a fit note.
  • If they can’t, and you reasonably believe that their illness was dishonest, you may be able to treat the absence as unauthorised and initiate disciplinary action.
  • If taking formal action, remember to show the employee any evidence you’ve gathered and allow them to put their version of events or any mitigation they may have across.

Monitoring sickness absence is a good practice to implement, as recording all absences and the reasons behind them can help you to identify any themes and trends typical for the particular employee, the time of year or the workforce as a whole.