It’s easy to assume that, when an employee calls in sick, they may not be telling the whole truth. But this is very rarely the case and you should never jump to conclusions.
To find out whether an employee is lying about an illness, you will need clear evidence against them before making any accusations.
This can be quite difficult, especially if there are only one or two days of absence because it’s a minor illness such as the flu or a stomach bug, but there are various things you can do if you are concerned that too much sickness absence is being taken.
Employees can self-certify for up to 7 days; however, following this they will need to present a medical note from their doctor which should be supplied to you from the eighth day of absence.
You can also conduct a return to work interview to find out more about the illness and make sure that they are fit enough to go back to work. This will demonstrate to employees that their absence is being monitored and will discourage unnecessary regular absenteeism if they must sit in front of the manager every time they return to work.
There may also be cases of whistleblowing in the workplace if colleagues have evidence that a fellow employee is faking sickness, such as posts on social media.
If you are presented with such proof from another employee then you must gain permission from them for you to use it against their colleague.
Please be wary though that covert surveillance and checking personal social media accounts as the employer can become questionable sources of evidence as you need to make sure that you are not invading the privacy of your employees.
If you happen to see your employee walking around town during lunch or posting pictures of their trip to the zoo on Facebook, then that can be used as sufficient evidence against them.
The best way to track any suspicious behaviour is by keeping a record of sickness absence so you can pick up on questionable patterns such as does illness always seem to fall around pay day, or when the sun comes out?
Long term sickness will probably raise the most eyebrows but, your sickness absence policy should implement clear guidelines from day one such as a doctor’s sick note being provided after a specified number of days off.
If you have collected enough strong evidence for you to suspect that the employee is faking sickness, then it’s time to hold an investigation meeting.
During this, you should approach the situation with ease to get to the root of the problem before making any accusations.
Start by finding out whether there are any external issues such as problems at home, grievances at work or real serious health issues that need to be addressed.
If you are unable to find any justifiable reasons for the dishonesty (and the unnecessary absence) then you can progress the situation to a disciplinary issue as this would be classed as breaking the code of conduct set by your business.
For further information on how to address a gross misconduct issue, please see our recent post entitled ‘Dealing with Gross Misconduct in The Workplace‘ or give us a call on 0845 2626 260 to book a free consultation.