Cutting sick pay may not be the answer

May 27 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employers who are tempted to follow the example set by Tesco and curtail sick pay for the first three days of illness could be leaving themselves open to bigger problems than those they are trying to solve.

Employment law experts have warned that although such schemes are perfectly legal, they may actually increase absence as well as alienating and demotivating workforces.

For example, some employees may view the removal of sick pay as a licence to take guilt-free unpaid leave.

Such schemes pose health considerations by encouraging people to work when they are unwell, an issue that has particular implications for those working with food or in the hospitality industry.

As Daniel Naftalin, a partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya, pointed out to Personnel Today: "You are effectively forcing people to go to work and this could give rise to negligence claims as people make more mistakes when they are ill."

And in the UK’s increasingly litigious climate, companies that fail to investigate the reasons behind employee absence could be also left open to claims of disability discrimination, he warned.

Meanwhile Croner Consulting’s employment law expert, Richard Smith, said that employers thinking of following in Tesco’s footsteps must consult with its employees first.

“Failure to do so could result in employees suing for lose of earnings or constructive dismissal.”

He added that effective absence management could go a long way towards reducing the problem. This involves monitor levels of absence of all employees closely, making employees aware that their absence has been noted, where necessary arranging a meeting to identify any health problems or to make sure that they catch up on work and finally taking disciplinary action against any employee found to be taking non-genuine sick leave.