Taurai Musakaruka, People Issues
IN my last instalment I did mention that the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 provides for sick leave to employees. In the same Act there is provision for both paid and unpaid sick leave depending on one’s circumstances. Paid sick days guarantee
workers paid time off to stay home when they are sick or not feeling well, to execute their duties.
“A paid sick leave provision is intended to protect an employee’s income and status during the period of illness or injury.”
I then highlighted the dos and don’ts relating to applications for sick leave and this instalment I will point out a very important factor relating to the general slackness about sickness absence management within the organisational culture.
Various studies indicate that generous sick leave provision result in high absence levels.
For many employees, sick leave represents additional leave, which must be utilised before year-end. This absence mentality often reflects a deep-rooted company culture that is kept alive by poor absence management.
If the culture among employees finds it acceptable to take sick leave regularly, abuse of sick leave tends to be higher.
In order to confidently discipline employees with attendance problems, legal experts say the best bet is to have a clearly written policy that specifies the organisation’s standards and employee requirements.
Any workable leave-monitoring programme vests primary authority and responsibility to identify and deal with problems with the immediate supervisor.
When reviewing employee attendance, particular attention should be paid to frequent unscheduled absences, usage of sick leave to extend weekends or holidays, or situations where the supervisor has reason to believe that the sick leave was used for other than the intended or allowable purposes.
When sick leave abuse is suspected, the supervisor should hold an informal discussion with the employee, ascertain the reason for use, and advise the employee of the supervisor’s concerns.
In many cases a legitimate explanation will emerge and no further action need be taken.
If in the supervisor’s opinion, however, the explanation is not acceptable, then the employee should be so advised.
If the absence at issue involves inappropriate use of sick leave for one or more specific days you should not allow the charge to sick leave without first checking with your Human Resources.
This can be applied in the case of an employee who requests for annual leave for a day previously denied, and the employee subsequently calls in sick for that day and you doubt the credibility of the illness.
It may be more appropriate to move the charge to another leave category, or even hold the employee in “no-pay” status for the time in question.
If the issue does not relate to specific days but to a pattern of use or excessive use, formal counselling should ensue.
Supervisors should keep in mind that counselling is intended to be positive and constructive, it is not meant to be disciplinary.
The employee should be informed of the reasons for concern; i.e., total number of days absent, a detected pattern of abuse, unusually low accrual balance, etc.
The supervisor should express confidence that the employee will remedy the problem and may also point out possible consequences for not doing so, including disciplinary action, should the problem not be corrected.
A formal document memorialising the conversation should follow the counselling session, with a copy to the employee’s official personnel file in the Human
Resources Office. However, it should be noted that not all employees abuse this facility.
Employers should be careful in managing this and warned against punishing innocent employees.
Put proper systems, make sure employees are aware of consequences; monitor and you will be home and dry.
l Taurai Musakaruka is Human Resources Practitioner. Feedback e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com