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The Eric Whitehead Partnership

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The Problem With “Duvet Days”

Most employers will be familiar with the problem of their staff at one point or another taking a “sickie” or a “duvet day”, particularly during the cold winter months. The CBI estimates that the average worker takes seven sick days a year at a combined annual cost to British businesses of £13 billion. The CBI also estimates that 12% of sick days are bogus.

So, the question for employers is – what can be done about “duvet days”?

The most crucial thing is for an employer to have an appropriate policy in place and that the policy is communicated to all staff. The most obvious starting point is for an employer not to pay contractual sick pay (although this option will not be available to all employers). Employees will think twice about taking time off if they are not getting paid!

If that is not an option then an active “return to work” procedure should be put into place. This would involve interviewing an employee upon their return to work, even after a short absence. This has been shown in the past to be a deterrent.

Another option is rewards for staff for good attendance records and the threat of disciplinary action for repeated absenteeism.

However, employers do need to tread carefully, particularly if an employee is genuinely sick. A heavy handed approach can lead to claims of discrimination which could prove costly to a business, particularly if the claim proceeds to a tribunal.

Another issue for an employer to consider is whether short term absenteeism in their business is actually a symptom of work stress. If so, the cause of such problems should be identified and eradicated immediately.

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