3 Steps Solution to Sick Leave Abuse

It’s an unfavourable fact that everybody gets sick sometimes.
Sick days – unplanned absences that can be tricky to manage. However, if you are beginning to suspect that an employee is abusing sick leave, here in this article, we have a simple solution for you.

What is sick leave abuse?

If an employee has frequent absences and/or doesn't provide satisfactory reasons for why they are absent, they may be misusing or abusing sick leave.

The misuse of sick leave has another name: absenteeism. This refers to employees who consistently take time off work sick when they don’t need to do so.


1. Discourage employees from abusing sick leave at the policy level
Within your employee handbook, ensure that you have a robust sick leave policy. Be specific on how you handle sick leave also what you need from employees who take time off work for MCs. You should also regularly remind employees of your policy in email or conversation to show that you're on top of monitoring sickness absenteeism, discouraging misuse of sick leave.

2. Communication is the KEY
Managers should be proactive when someone in their team is off sick to tackle situations of abuse. Maintain regular contact while the employee is off sick and a return to work interview when they are back. This shows you are attentive when it comes to sickness absence.

When someone has been absent, it's important to talk to them about it as soon as they're back. For employees who have a genuine reason for absence, this will be a great way to check in on how they're doing and support them in coming back to work.

Of course, in the case of a longer period of absence, a more formal Return to Work interview may be needed to ensure an employee is fit for work and getting the right support.

It's best to work with the employee to understand any underlying reasons for absence and how best to move forward.

“Focus on problem-solving instead of punishment”

In most cases, there will be an underlying reason for frequent absences.

  • Does the employee have an unmanageable workload or are they being micromanaged?
  • Perhaps their job role unclear so they feel unmotivated?
  • Is workplace bullying a potential issue?

By understanding why someone may take more time off work, particularly for stress-related reasons, you can work with them to address the issue more effectively and reduce absenteeism.

3. Measure absences and investigate MCs to identify sick leave misuse
If you suspect an employee who is frequently absent is abusing sick leave, it's important to approach the situation rationally and carefully. You may need to have your facts ready if to have a counselling session.

Recording absence is essential for compliance and helps you identify where misuse of sick leave may be at play.

A former internal auditor of a large company with over 400 employees share a sensible solution whereby the Human Resource suspected that some of the medical certificates were fake, as were the medical claims.

The solution was to write to the doctors who issued the MCs and invoices for medical treatment to provide details of the medical problems, with a note that the replies might be referred to the Malaysian Medical Association for verification of the medication and necessity for medical leave

The result was an immediate reduction of almost 80% of the number of MCs and medical claims.

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