How to avoid the festive fear after your Christmas Work party

Avoiding festive fear after your Christmas Work Party

Christmas work party season is underway!

From now until Christmas (and maybe even beyond) employers all over the country may be treating their employees to slap-up meals and alcoholic refreshments to thank them for their hard work over the course of the year.

Over the last couple of years, employees may have missed out on their Christmas Work Party due to COVID-19 cases, so this year may be many companies’ first Christmas work party. Reminding employees that whilst it’s outside normal working hours the Christmas Work party is still a work event.

The Christmas work party season is a great team-building opportunity, turning workmates into real mates and giving colleagues the opportunity to get to know each other in more informal surroundings. Unfortunately, because of various pieces of legislation, employers need to set out the standards of acceptable behaviour for their workers at the Christmas Work Party (or at least explain this clearly to staff beforehand).

This is because:

Employers can be held liable for harm (under health and safety laws) or harassment caused to or by their employees, or for negligent acts of their employees.

Employers have a responsibility for their staff’s actions, even outside of normal working hours or outside of the normal working environment. Any social event organised by the employer is an ‘extension’ of the workplace – regardless of the place or time of the event

Workplace policies on bullying and harassment and discrimination still apply at the Christmas work party. Just make sure everyone knows this and knows what they are. Employers should remind staff that it is how a person perceives the behaviour that is taken into consideration, should a claim arise, and not how the behaviour is meant.

How can you avoid party problems this Christmas party season?

· Pre-Party Communications Aside from details such as date, time, and venue, employers should provide employees with a gentle reminder that the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace and that certain standards are expected of them and that the normal disciplinary rules will apply should any incidents arise (in the least killjoy way possible!)

· Open to all It is vital that you ensure the party is timed so that all employees, regardless of age, gender, religion, disability or any other factor have the opportunity to attend. Should any section of the workforce be seen to be favoured or discriminated against in this way, employers could find themselves under question.

· Limit the Free Bar In order to prevent people behaving in an unacceptable manner, employers need to take a sensible approach to the provision of alcohol and be alerted to take quick action to nip any unruly behaviour in the bud.

· Getting Home Consider how your employees will get home after the party. Issue advice in advance about not drinking and driving. Can the employer provide transport home, e.g. taxi pooling/coaches? At the very least encourage employees to think about how they will get home.

· The Morning After Where possible arrange for your party to be held on a night were as few people as possible are working the following day. Be clear about your expectations regarding absence the next day and explain that disciplinary action may be taken if your expectations are breached.

What amounts to gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct may vary from business to business, gross misconduct should be detailed within the employee handbook.  Misconduct at a Christmas work party, may include;

  • Harassment or bullying
  • Physical violence
  • Theft
  • Rude behaviour

A piece of case law that emphasises the pitfalls and problems that a work party can bring is Gimson v Display By Design Ltd Mr Gimson was employed as an operative. While walking home with a group of colleagues after their Christmas work party, he disagreed with one of his colleagues and then punched another colleague in the face.

The employer subsequently instigated its disciplinary procedure and summarily dismissed Mr. Gimson for gross misconduct, finding from its investigation that there was no provocation. Mr. Gimson’s appeal was rejected.

When dealing with situations like behaviour misconduct at Christmas work parties, previous actions should be consistent when taken action. Taking time to consider any comparable situations, the employee may have, minimising the risk of unfair dismissal cases.

Investigations should be started without delay with a further and meaningful investigation completed. Gathering evidence is a critical aspect of the investigation together with consulting with employees.

Steps for minimising misconduct at Christmas work party

  1. Creating a policy for conduct at work-related events
  2. Clearly detailing expectations for employee behaviour
  3. Employers should remind employees of the work-related policy prior to the Christmas work party
  4. Written and verbal communication may be necessary to further minimise the possibility of breaching policies leading to disciplinary action
  5. The communication may detail starting and finishing times of the Christmas work party, expectations for employee conduct, and reminding employees not to act any differently than they would in a normal working environment.

The Christmas work party should be a time to celebrate the successes of the year and enjoy spending time with colleagues outside of the work environment. If certain precautionary preparations are made, employers can relax at night, safe in the knowledge that they have taken steps to ensure the safety of their staff, therefore avoiding potential liability.

Christmas Work Party memo example

The Christmas parties will be held on INSERT DATE.

We would like to take this time to celebrate 2023’s achievements. It has been a very busy year for everyone.  

Please remember however, that it is a work function and an appropriate standard of conduct is expected. I have attached details of the Bullying & Harassment (Dignity at Work) policy. Please also note the Alcohol, Drugs, & Solvent abuse policyBoth policies are included in the employee handbook.

Please familiarise yourself with these policies and be mindful of your obligations with respect to each of them.

Employees who organise informal events after work, particularly in venues close to the workplace, should recognise that such events may be classed as work-related functions. It is therefore imperative that employees conduct themselves in a proper manner and avoid bringing the Company into disrepute.

Whilst I would like everyone to enjoy themselves, I must make it clear that any employee found to be guilty of misconduct during any such event will be subject to the Disciplinary Procedure in the same way as they would had the misconduct occurred in the normal course of employment.’

If, unfortunately, an incident occurs at the Christmas work party, contact our HR consultants for HR support to ensure the company is following employment laws and procedures.

Uber Supreme Court Decision

Uber’s Supreme Court Decision

With the outcome of Uber’s Supreme Court decision it looks like the Gig economy will never be the same again. BeyondHR’s Natalie O’Hare gives her reaction to the court’s decision in the below video.


Incentivising employees in a SME

In our latest blog Neil McLeese, CEO at BeyondHR, explains what you need consider when thinking about how incentivising employees helps with productivity.

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Good news! Money isn’t everything for incentivising employees…

Professor Adrian Furnham wrote in The New Psychology of Money: “Psychological research has consistently suggested that where money has motivational power it is nearly always negative”.  The main reason for this is that money crowds out our innate desire to do a good job and leads to behaviours that work against employers’ interests.

Don’t get me wrong, financial reward is important for incentivising employees but only to a point.  People expect to get paid the ‘going rate’ for the work that they do but if you want to motivate your employees to deliver your organisational objectives you need to introduce incentives that influence their intrinsic motivations (i.e. their innate desire to do a good job).

There are never ending possibilities on the different practices you could introduce to create this influence.  But because each small business is different I have outlined the principles I think you should consider:

  • Employee Involvement

People generally feel more motivated and incentivised when they feel involved in something and feel like their opinion is listened to. Largely this involves meaningful two-way communication and where “employees views are sought out; they are listened to and see that their opinions count and make a difference. They speak out and challenge when appropriate.”  It isn’t by accident that a government commissioned study identified this point as one of the pillars of employee engagement.

As a business owner it can be daunting to seek out opinions of your employees because you might well disagree with your employees’ opinions. Thankfully, research has shown that it is the fact that opinions are sought out, rather than whether or not they are actioned, that is the motivating factor.  However, if you do disagree, it is important to explain why you disagree so you are not perceived as you ignoring employee opinions.

Another part of meaningful communication is making sure that you communicate your vision for the business and how each employee fits into that plan.  That way employees can buy into what you are trying to achieve and will understand how they can help achieve success.

  • Development Opportunities

Generally speaking, people want to develop and grow their skills.  This means that they may move jobs every few years in order to develop their portfolio of skills.  As the leader of a small business you will want to try and maximise your retention rate, employees have the skills to meet the current challenges as well as developing skills that may be needed in the future helps with retention rates.

This can either be in the way of formal training, in-house / on the job training or development projects. While formal training is sometimes necessary in order to get a fundamental grasp of a subject area it is worth pointing out that are many opportunities for development in a small business. Through your conversations (or appraisals) with employees you may be able to ascertain what their ambitions are. Keep this information in mind and try and get them involved in areas / projects that can help develop their skills. 

The following exchange sums up the importance of employee development:

CFO: “what if we spend our time and resources developing our employees and they leave?”

CEO: “what if we don’t train them and they stay!”

  • Flexibility

I’m sure everyone has heard the saying ‘you can make more money, but you can’t make more time.’ With the hectic pace of life, more employees than ever are struggling to find the time for family, friends and hobbies.

By offering your employees some flexibility in hours, or perhaps the ability to work from home occasionally, you’re acknowledging that you know they have a life outside of work goes a long way for incentivising employees.

Even if you can’t offer your employees benefits like everyday core hours or work-from-home days, you might still be able to grant some flexibility. Even being understanding when a family emergency happens or when their car breaks down can make the difference between fostering loyalty to your business or sending your employees back to the job boards.

  • Recognition

Nothing is more discouraging than working hard on a project, only to have your hard work ignored and unnoticed.

You should provide your employees with recognition for their hard work on a regular basis. Don’t let a hard worker spend weeks or months thinking you didn’t notice when he or she helped with a new product launch or went above and beyond the call of duty when helping with an emergency.

BeyondHR are a team of professional HR Consultants with offices in Northern Ireland and Scotland. We have more than 25 years’ proven experience of providing HR advice for employers including employment law support through our range of outsourced HR services and HR projects. If you would like more information on this blog please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Employee well-being and EAP?

In his latest blog Neil McLeese, Director at BeyondHR, explains what an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is and what benefits it might hold for your business to improve employee well-being.

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What is an EAP?

An Employee Assistance Programme is a preventative and reactive support service, supplied by an organisation to its employees.

The purpose of an EAP is to not to only help service users in times of distress, but also to support people prioritising their mental wellbeing.

EAPs usually offer access to supports around areas of life that are widely acknowledged as stressors and therefore effecting employee well-being, such as legal professionals issues, financial difficulties experts and more.

This is also why EAP programmes usually provide access to partners and dependent children over 16, as again it is understood if we are concerned about the people closest to us in life this too can affect our mental wellbeing.

The EAP offered by our partner, Spectrum.Life, is the most comprehensive on the market. They offer a range of routes to access the service including live chat and free phone telephone support. From this they offer referral to professional services (legal, professional, mediation, life coaching and more), referral into short term mental health intervention which can be face-to-face, telephone or video counselling sessions, as well as access to hours of evidence-based eLearning content around mental health topics and more.

What are the benefits of improving employee well-being for your business?

  • Improved Productivity

Research has shown that three-quarters of employees showed a significant increase in work productivity after accessing EAP services. This doesn’t just help boost profitability, but can also help strengthen morale in the workplace.

Individual mental health has an impact on workplace performance, so it’s in an employer’s interest to ensure employees feel that they can deal with life’s challenges.

  • Reduce Absenteeism

Encouraging employees to make use of an EAP can help reduce the number of sick days taken.

BeyondHR are a team of professional HR Consultants with offices in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have more than 25 years proven experience of providing HR advice for employers including employment law support through our range of outsourced HR services and HR projects.

We have recently partnered with Spectrum.Life, who are a leading EAP provider.  As a Spectrum.Life partner we are able to offer preferential EAP rates for our clients. If you would like more information on this blog or our EAP offering please do not hesitate to get in touch.

What to include in holiday pay?

In November 2014 the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) issued its decision in the cases of Wood and Others v Hertel UK and Fulton and another v Bear Scotland Ltd.


As widely expected, the decision is that, under UK law, workers must be paid normal remuneration during holidays. Normal pay is deemed to include non-guaranteed overtime, allowances and commission. Some good news is for employers is that if there is a gap of more than three months in any alleged series of deductions the industrial tribunal loses its jurisdiction to hear claims for the earlier deductions. In addition, workers are not entitled to retrospectively designate which holidays formed part of the 20 days of mandatory holiday to which this ruling applies, so it is unclear how they will establish when a deduction has been made.


It was initially unclear whether this ruling would apply in Northern Ireland. However in mid-December 2014 it was applied in the case of Robert Patterson v Castlereagh Borough Council [2014] NIIT 1793/13.Central to the issue in these proceedings was whether any period of annual leave which the claimant was entitled to should be calculated pursuant to Article 17 or Article 20 of the Employment Rights (NI) Order and whether the claimant had ‘normal working hours’. The tribunal emphasised the importance of the recent UKEAT authority of Fulton & others v Bear Scotland which clarified that ‘voluntary overtime’ which the claimant was not contractually obliged to do could not be included in the calculation of holiday pay, for the purposes of the WTR. 

In contrast, ‘compulsory overtime’ and ‘non-guaranteed overtime’ must be included in holiday pay calculation. It is vital that attention is paid to the 3 separate definitions of overtime clarified by the EAT and accepted by the tribunal in this case: 

a) ‘Non-guaranteed overtime’: where there is no obligation on the employer to provide the overtime but where the employee is obliged to work, if offered overtime.

b) ‘Voluntary overtime’: additional work which the employer asks an employee to do but which the employee is free to refuse.

c) ‘Compulsory overtime’: where the employer is contractually obliged to provide the overtime hours and the worker is contractually obliged to complete.


This is unlikely to be the end of the story as the EAT have given leave for parties in the Wood and Others v Hertel UK and Fulton and another v Bear Scotland Ltd to appeal and we expect that this is likely to occur in due course but any outcome is unlikely to be known for some time.


Even though these cases could be appealed do not ignore this issue, as it will not go away.In the meantime, we would suggest that employers and employees discuss any concerns arising from this decision with a view to seeking agreement on any temporary measures or policy changes they feel may be necessary.In order to aid preparation for such discussions, and to identify potential backdated claims, employers should carry out an analysis of their holiday pay records to determine where there are or could be 3 month gaps that could invalidate any potential claims.

Rugby World Cup – Avoid Absenteeism

Recent research conducted throughout the UK by CV-Library has suggested that one in seven employees are tempted to skip work during the upcoming Rugby World Cup; this could mean that 4.4 million of the UK’s 31 million employees may partake in unauthorised absences during September and October.As such during the World Cup companies may notice an increase in absenteeism as employees take time off (i.e. unauthorised time) to watch or attend matches (or to recover after watching matches). In many cases employees may report his/her absence as sickness. So how can employers try avoid absenteeism in the workplace?

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Absence Management Policy to avoid absenteeism (Short Term Absence)

As we all know poor attendance can have serious consequences on the overall efficiency of the company, and on the morale of other employees who are required to undertake additional work in the absence of colleagues. For this reason it is important to have robust absence management policies in place to ensure absenteeism is kept to a minimum all year round and in particular during large sporting events such as the World Cup. What should you have in place?

1. An Absence Notification Procedure that details: Who the employee should make contact with should he/she is unable to attend for work.§ The time before which the employee should make contact i.e. before 8.00am or at least 1 hour before his/her shift is due to start.§ The method of communication that they should use to make contact i.e. contact must be by telephone call and text messages / emails are not acceptable.§ That the employee should provide the reason why they are off and how long they expect to be absent for. If they do not offer this information the person with whom they speak should ask the reason for absence and expected duration.

2. Attendance Records: it is good practice for a company to keep records detailing each occasion of absence that each employee has and the reasons for same. This will allow any pattern of absence or re-occuring reason for absence to be identified and dealt with appropriately (e.g. ill health management or disciplinary proceedings).

3. Return to Work (RTW) Interviews should be conducted by the employees line manager on their first day back after absence (no matter how long they were off for i.e. 1 day or 41 days). By conducting RTW interviews after every absence, employees soon become aware that he/she will expected to provide an explanation for the their absence and this can help prevent unnecessary ‘sick days’ occuring. (Please note that we can provide you with a template RTW interview which can be used).

Other issues that could emerge around the World Cup:· Employees attending for work in an unfit condition (under the influence of alcohol or hungover)· Employees misusing the internet facility to follow the progress of matches.In order to combat the aforementioned issues it is important that you have policies and procedures in place; for example:· Email and Internet Policy that details if the company’s computer/internet can be used for personal use and if so the times at which it can be used i.e. during recognised break times, furthermore, the social media policy should be incorporated. · Disciplinary Procedure that will highlight the potential consequences of a breach of any company policy i.e. “Unauthorised use of E-mail and/or the Internet” may constitute Major Misconduct and “Attending for, or being in an intoxicated state at work, or otherwise induced by alcohol, drugs or solvent abuse” may be classified as Gross Misconduct.

BeyondHR are a team of professional HR Consultants with offices in Northern Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland. We have more than 25 years proven experience of providing HR advice for employers including employment law support through our range of outsourced HR services. If you would like more information on this blog please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Age Discrimination – £40k award

As has been reported in the local and national media, a Northern Ireland woman who claimed that Dunnes Stores discriminated against her because of her age has been awarded £40,000 in settlement, as age discrimination is protected against in the workplace ensuring equality.

The Claimant had worked as a security manager for Dunnes since 2005 and had 23 years’ experience working in security roles in various stores. After turning 60, she was placed on a series of fixed term renewable contracts with the store until 2014 (when she was 63) at which point her contract was terminated.

Crucially these fixed term contracts were not imposed on other security personnel and other managers in the company, who it was alleged were all younger than her. Ms Dunbar brought a claim against the Company and was supported in doing so by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland who described her case as ‘raising issues about the treatment of older workers as they approach or pass what used to be regarded as retirement age’.

Although Dunnes Stores settled the claim they do not accept that they had breached equality legislation but have agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission over policies, practices, training and procedures on equality of opportunity and, in particular, on age discrimination.

Lessons of this age discrimination case

It is important to remember that equality legislation, protects employees from unlawful discrimination on the basis of age. The obvious issue in this case was that the Claimant (an older worker) was treated less favourably than other (younger) workers. The Regulations prohibit all employers, regardless of size, from subjecting job applicants and employees, including contract workers and former employees, to age discrimination and harassment.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate in all aspects of the employment relationship, such as:

· recruitment and selection;

· terms and conditions of employment;

· working environment (conduct and harassment);

· access to (employment related) benefits;

· termination of employment – such as dismissal and redundancy;

· post-employment situations – such as the provision of references.

Although, in the case of Dunnes Stores, the Claimant was an older worker it is important to note that the reverse circumstances (i.e. a younger worker being treated less favourably than older workers) could potentially have constituted age discrimination.

Should you require any further information in relation to the above or would like a member of the team to talk to you about a specific issue please contact us on 028 2564 4110.

Probationary Periods

No matter how rigorous the recruitment and interview process, sometimes employers make the wrong decision which is why probationary periods provide good protection for employers.

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A probationary period gives an employer a specific time period to objectively assess whether a new employee is suitable for the job taking into account their capability, skills, performance, attendance and general conduct.

Importance of a clear probationary periods

There is no law determining the length of a probationary period. However, in Northern Ireland employees are able to claim for unfair dismissal after one year’s service (two years in GB) and for that reason we recommend that employers keep their probationary periods well below that timescale.

As with everything in the employment field there is an expectation on employers to be reasonable and a typical probationary period would be about 6 months.

No matter how long the Company decides the probationary period should be, it must be clearly communicated to the employee at the outset of their employment. We would always advise employers to put the details of their probationary period in their letters of offer and employment contracts.

Failing to clearly detail your probationary period may be a complicating factor in the event that a new employee isn’t working out and you need to consider the termination of their employment.

If you are a small business owner / manager thinking about taking on new employees and want to make sure that you start off on the right foot please do not hesitate to contact us on 028 2564 4110 – we would be delighted to help.

Shared Parental Leave

The purpose of this bulletin is to give you an understanding of the new Shared Parental Leave (SPL) which will be available for parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015. SPL gives working mothers the option to end their maternity / adoption pay and maternity / adoption leave early (at any point from 2 weeks after the birth/placement or 4 weeks if they work in a factory) and to share the untaken leave and pay with their partner, if they are also eligible.

Employees can take SPL in up to three separate blocks and Parents can choose how much of the SPL each of them will take but they must give at least 8 weeks’ notice of any leave they wish to take. SPL and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).


Shared Parental Leave

To qualify for SPL, the child’s mother (or adoptive parent) must be eligible for either:·

maternity leave or pay·

maternity allowance·

adoption leave or pay

Your employee must also:·

have worked for you continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or date they are matched with their adopted child)·

still be employed by you while they take SPL· give you the correct notice including a declaration that their partner meets the employment and income requirements which allow your employee to get SPL

Statutory Shared Parental Pay

Your employee can get ShPP if one of the following applies:·

they qualify for statutory maternity pay·

they qualify for statutory paternity pay and have a partner who qualifies for statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance or statutory adoption pay ShPP is paid at the rate of whichever is the lower of:·

£138.18 a week (£139.58 from 6 April 2015)· 90 per cent of the employee’s average weekly earningsOver the coming weeks you will receive a draft Shared Parental Leave Policy and Procedure which will give a more detailed insight into the procedures involved in relation to these requests.

If you have any specific queries regarding this bulletin please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on 028 2564 4110.

Reducing Short-term Absence

When you consider that the median cost of absence per employee in 2015 was £554 (CIPD; Absence Management 2015) you can understand the financial pressure this can cause particularly in organisations that do not effectively manage their absence rates.

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Then there are the logistical problems of trying to get absent employees work covered and the morale issues this can cause if there are a number of persistent offenders. Now, I am not unrealistic enough to think that absence at work can be eliminated but when 30% of organisations surveyed by the CIPD report that “non-genuine absence” is one of the top causes of short-term absence for manual workers and 23% report the same for non-manual workers I know there are still things we can do to improve.

While every organisation manages absence differently, whether as a result of the type of business they are in or the administrative resources available, the key principles in reducing short-term absence are consistent:

Have an Absence Policy

This should be clear, easily understood and supports the business objectives. It will explain the rights and obligations of employees when they are absent due to sickness. For example:· Who within the Company the employee should notify, how they should notify that person and when are they expected to make contact.

I would strongly recommend that employees are advised that text messages and email are not acceptable means of communication for short-term absence as this can make it too easy for employees who just want to ‘pull a sickie’. · When they are required to complete a self-certification form and/or obtain a fit note from their Doctor. That the Company reserves the right to require employees to attend a consultation with an Occupational Health Consultant (with the employees consent) or to request a report from the employee’s doctor (with the employees consent).· Details of any trigger levels that the Company is using in relation to absence.· That the Company conducts return to work interviews.· That reasonable adjustments may be necessary to assist an employee to return to work as soon as practicable.· Guidance on absence during adverse events (for example bad snow) or popular sporting events i.e FIFA world cup.

Measure your absence

The old adage ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ is extremely true when dealing with absence. Please have a look at three possible methods below and how these can be calculated.

‘Lost time’ rate

This shows the percentage of total time available which has been lost due to sickness absence and can be calculated by department or location in order to highlight areas of concern. The formulae for calculating this is:Total absence (hours / days) in the period x 100Possible total (hours or days) in the period

Frequency rate

This shows an individual frequency rate by counting the number of employees who take at least one period of absence in the reference period rather that the total number of periods of absence and express it as a percentage. For me, the downsides of this measure are that it doesn’t give any indication of the length of each absence period or any employees who have more than one period of absence. However, the formulae to calculate this rate is:

Number of periods of absence in reference period x 100 Number of employees

Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor identifies persistent short-term absence for individuals and is therefore a useful measure of the disruption caused by this type of absence.

The formula is: S x S x D

Where S = number of spells of absence in 52 weeks taken by an individualAnd D = number of days absence taken by the individual in the previous 52 weeks

For example 6 one-day absences: 6 x 6 x 6 = 2161 twenty day absence: 1 x 1 x 20 = 20 Whatever method you use measuring absence is important. But at what point should action start? That is why it is equally important to have trigger levels defined from the start.

Implement Trigger levels

It is up to each Company to define their trigger levels but care should be taken to ensure that they are not unreasonable (for example ‘1 day off in a year’ would definitely be unreasonable).

Some Companies will have a very straight forward set of trigger points (for example more than 3 periods of absence or more than 10 working days absent or an unacceptable pattern of absence in a 12 month rolling period). Others, who use the Bradford Factor will have a number of points as their trigger level (for example 160).

But what happens once the trigger levels are breached?

It is important to take action but this doesn’t mean automatically issuing disciplinary warnings as this would be unfair and potentially discriminatory. What I mean by this is formally sit down with the employee to investigate their absence record and ascertain if there are underlying medical reasons for the absence. If there are, then a referral to an Occupational Health Consultant may be a good move to ensure that their role isn’t aggravating their condition. You will also need to take into consideration if the employee has a disability and whether the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 / Equality Act 2010 applies such as the need to make a reasonable adjustment.

A reasonable adjustment in this type of situation may include removing absences relating to their condition from the absence record. If there aren’t any underlying issues and there is the feeling that the absences are “non-genuine” then you might consider referring the matter on as a potential disciplinary case.

The benefit of acting on trigger levels like this is that it allows HR and Management to proactively identify problems and control the solution of them. Another benefit is that it discourages the repeated poor attenders from reducing their unnecessary short-term absence (i.e. to avoid breaching the trigger levels) as they know that disciplinary action could be a consequence. While this is all good on paper the key to making all of this work in the real World is applying the standards consistently and ensuring that it is being used across all areas of the Company.

Return to Work (RTW) Interviews after short-term absence

These are widely regarded as one of the most effective management tools for managing short-term absence. It allows managers to identify short-term absence issues early on and start a discussion with the employee to try and resolve any underlying problems. However it is vital that RTWs are carried out for every period of absence and they are done consistently across Companies.

The purpose of return to work interviews is to:·

Welcome employee back·

Check they are well enough to be at work·

Discuss the details of an agreed return to work based on advice given by the GP in the Statement of Fitness for Work having already agreed the return to work in principle by talking through the issues on the phone or face to face

· Update employees on any news while they were off

· Identify the cause of the absence and find out whether they have a disability and whether the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 / Equality Act 2010 applies such as the need to make a reasonable adjustment

· Establish if their sickness is work-related and whether there are any health and safety issues you need to address

In addition to this, I would suggest it would be good to find out if the employee visited the doctor, what (if any) medication they were prescribed and whether there are any side-effects to the medication. As well as the benefits detailed above, having all of this information documented also helps if you need to resort to the disciplinary procedures as you will have a bundle of contemporary evidence to rely on.