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What can I do if I think an employee is taking sick leave without really being ill?

Your sickness absence policy should include steps to discourage this sort of behaviour. Options include:

  • Requiring employees to phone in and speak to you if they are taking the day off sick rather than just sending an email or leaving a voicemail.
  • Requiring employees to provide a doctors’ fit note if they are off sick for more than a week.
  • Holding return to work interviews and asking employees to sign a self-certification form explaining their illness after any sick leave.
  • Offering more flexible work patterns — so that if employees need time off they have an alternative to calling in sick.
  • Making it clear that repeated absences or sick leave cause the business problems and will lead to further investigation.

If there is still a problem, you might consider asking the employee to be seen by an occupational health specialist (at your expense) — but you cannot require them to do this unless it is included in their contract. In any case, you should investigate to try to find out whether they have a disability or if their work is contributing to the problem.

You may also want to consider taking disciplinary action, but you will need to be careful how you approach this. Accusing an employee of faking their illness is unlikely to help your working relationship. If they have more than two years’ service, false accusations could also lead to a claim of constructive dismissal.

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